Sunday, January 22, 2017

New Year New Tooth!

Post Root Canal and Pre Crown

The Final Product

This is a story of root canals, dentists and pet insurance gone right!

A few days before Christmas I came home and found Copley with a lump on the side of his face under his eye.  We had been rummaging in the garage a lot due to the pilot light going out on our hot water heater so I figured it might have been a spider bite or something like that.  I gave the poor guy a benadryl and called our vet.  Luckily our vet is a wonderful lady who always answers the phone.  She informed me it was likely actually an abscessed tooth!  It being 6pm already there was not a whole lot to be done that night so she suggested I visit a vet who did root canals in the morning with the hopes that we could save the tooth.
The Lump
I am all for saving teeth.  In most practices vets just pull teeth, but Las Vegas is lucky enough to have a veterinary practice that regularly does root canals and other advanced dental work (if you are in Las Vegas and looking, it is Dr. Hewitt at Cheyenne West Animal Hospital).  Even though we knew it would be more expensive we decided to try to save the tooth. 

He looks thrilled for the dentist!

That night from my vet, and the next day from the vet who did dental work I learned something really interesting.  Dogs only actually eat their food with four teeth.    Two molars (top and bottom) on each side of their mouth.  The other teeth are mostly for ripping flesh off bones.  Admittedly my dogs probably do a little more flesh taring than your average kibble fed dog, but it is still not the main activity for a domestic dog.  While a lot of dogs do ok with no teeth at all (I have seen foster dogs that can actually get a lot done with just gums) it is pretty bad to loose any of those four teeth.  It would have basically forced Copley to move all of his eating to the other side of his mouth.  To my great relief many vets and techs told me what a young dog he was at only eight to be loosing teeth like that!  Copley acts like a grumpy old man from time to time so hearing medical professionals call him young was both reassuring and refreshing. 

As our options were being laid out at the vets office a crown came up.  I just about fell out of my seat as dollar signs swirled in front of my eyes!  I told the vet that the root canal and filling to continue to at least use most of the tooth seemed like the best plan considering it seemed unlikely pet insurance would cover a crown for a dog!  The vet in turn asked who I had insurance through and after I informed him it was Pet Plan he told me I was probably in luck.  I don't know why I figured a crown was out of the question but he believed it was covered.  After all he had a pile of literature about how this was really the best option for his long term health.  We left the office agreeing to read more about crowns and submit the procedure for pre-approval with Pet Plan to help with our decision.  The more I read about the procedure the more I was convinced the crown was best for Copley.  Luckily for us the procedure was approved just after Christmas and Copley went in for a root canal.

There was still a worry on the day of the procedure that the tooth could be lost.  The fracture went below the gum line and could have been so bad it was a lost cause and there was also the possibility that the infection would be so bad in the bone that the tooth had to go.  Even though it was possible it would have to be pulled I felt good that between the coverage by Pet Plan and the talented vet we were giving Copley the best chance at the best outcome.  This really almost seems like a Pet Plan ad here but I assure you it is not.  In fact I have been paying them for the last six years, not the other way around!

Loopy From The Surgery

Luckily the root canal went great and the tooth was saved!  After the root canal came a great time of paranoia for me.  They carve little ridges into the tooth to put the crown on.  In a person it is pretty easy to ensure the tooth doesn't get damaged in the week or so while the crown is being made.  You just tell the person not to chew anything on that side!  With a dog it looks a little more like clearing your entire house of anything even a little bit hard, feeding ground up mush as food and praying to the tooth fairy (she seemed the appropriate deity for this situation).  As it turned out everything went perfectly and now I am the proud owner of a dog who is the proud owner of a $2800 tooth.

Now to train him to open his mouth to show it off, this should be fun!

P.S.- What did Copley fracture his tooth on in the first place?  There is no way to know for sure, but after talking to the vet about his chewing habits his best guess was a nylabone.  Apparently the hard ones are actually hard enough to break a tooth.  Here I was thinking the only danger with a nylabone was breaking off pieces and eating them, which is why I was buying the super hard ones!  I will be kicking myself in the butt about that, so just a warning, if your dog is an intense chewer like Copley, maybe stay away from the hard nylabones.