After clearance from the cardiologist, Rook finally had his second (and last) dental cleaning.
During yearly wellness exams, your vet will check your cat’s teeth as part of the exam. They’ll usually recommend dental cleanings every few years or so, depending on your cat. Different factors affect how often they need cleanings: type of food, activity, genetics.
Ever since we’ve had Rook, he’s had terrible teeth for no reason we can find besides bad luck. He had his first dental cleaning in 2012, when he had six teeth removed. His teeth were so bad, one tooth was purple, while others weren’t so much “extracted” as much as they fell out due to being to loosely connected to his gums.
In contrast, Bitey has only had one dental in her life with no extractions, while Patches had one dental with 2 teeth removed. We (jokingly) used to remind Rook that Patches had more teeth than him at 8 years his senior.
This time around, Rook had 12 extractions. One canine had been removed in 2012, but two more went bye bye this time. Our vet joked that he still has the one good canine for opening cans.
At his point, he barely has any teeth!
One thing I love about our vet is how informative he is. He explained Rook’s procedure with a medical replica of a cat’s mouth, to point out which teeth he removed. He drew pictures for me to describe how some of Rook’s roots were being reabsorbed into the gum, and why that made extraction important for pain management. Rook as usual was a good patient; our vet commented that surgery went perfect with no issues, while on the same day, he had a 4 year old cat without heart disease have complication after complication while under anesthesia.
Rook came home with a sensitive mouth full of sutures, anti-inflammatory pills for 2 days, and 2 weeks of clavamox antibiotics. He needed to eat wet food only for at least a week, and since it’s hard to keep our cats from eating each other’s foods, all of our cats got extra wet food to compensate for not getting dry as well.
As the cardiologist recommended, we watched for signs that his heart wasn’t having trouble bouncing back from anesthesia. His healing process went wonderfully, and two weeks later, the vet did a recheck to make sure sutures were clean and dissolving.
Rook is already back to chomping on wet and dry food. When he yawns, it looks kind of pathetic with the few teeth he has left.
You’re probably wondering how cats can still eat dry food after having teeth pulled; I wondered the same thing the first time around. My answer: I still don’t know, but they do it. My vet did point out though that the reason for extracting teeth is to relieve pain and prevent infection or disease. If the tooth caused discomfort, it’s likely that the cat didn’t use that tooth to eat anyway, so if anything, it’s easier to eat dry food post-removal.
An unfortunate part of dental care is that it’s frankly really expensive. For human teeth cleaning, we usually sit in the chair for about an hour while someone cleans, flosses, and polishes your teeth, with relatively little pain or discomfort. Because a cat isn’t going to willingly sit there while instruments approach their faces, they need to be sedated. Anesthesia means pre-procedure blood work and an exam will also be important, to ensure that the procedure is safe for them. In Rook’s case, the pre-exam discovered his heart murmur and cardiomyopathy, necessitating a special protocol for anesthesia. All of these safety measures will lead to a considerable bill.
If you’re lucky and your cat only needs a cleaning once or twice in their lifetime with no extractions, you’ll pay $500 maybe every 5 years. If you’re unlucky and Rook is your cat, you’ll pay nearly $1000 every time.
One effort to encourage owners to consider pet dental care, and hopefully make it more affordable, is February pet dental month, which several vets I’ve worked with promote. During this time, groups will educate the public on the importance of dental disease prevention, and several veterinary offices, such as the one I visit, will offer small discounts if you book a dental cleaning during the month of February.
If your pet needs a teeth cleaning, check with your vet to see if they offer February discounts, and maybe schedule your pet’s dental that way.
Unrelated to teeth, but relevant to Rook: I saw Frosty and Rook curled up next to each other and was confused, thinking there was only one giant grey fluffy blob on the ottoman. Where does one grey floof end, and the other one begin?
Recommended Reading: Pet Dental Care