Dear Doctor: Dental Implants for Dogs


Q. My dog, a Chihuahua named Freckles, was diagnosed with six loose lower front teeth. My dentist is doing implants on me, and I asked if it was possible for dogs to get implants. He said “yes.” I’d like to know if this would be possible for Freckles.

William Guthrie
Upper Marlboro, Maryland

Dear Mr. Guthrie,

A. Dental implants — prosthetic teeth — are probably not the right solution for Freckles, says Your Dog editorial advisor Bonnie Shope, DVM. Putting them in would most likely require a bone graft, Dr. Shope explains, and the lower front portion of the mouth that contains those six teeth (the mandibular incisors) is not a location that veterinary dentists are able to graft bone successfully.

Even if a bone graft were feasible, giving a dog dental implants is no simple matter. The dentist has to place a titanium screw directly into the bone where the original tooth was anchored. The screw then needs to fuse with the bone, which takes 2 to 6 months, and the implant could be lost or damaged in that time. You can’t tell a dog to chew gingerly in that spot or bite his toys softly.

In those cases where the titanium screw does fuse successfully, a porcelain or ceramic tooth then covers it.

It all must take place over a number of different dental visits (each of which requires general anesthesia). For every implant, the original tooth has to be extracted and the screw placed. In one of the final visits, the tooth-like white material is placed over the screw.

If that’s not involved enough, the cost can easily surpass $2,000 per tooth. And canine health insurance won’t cover it — dental implants are considered elective for dogs, no doubt in part because many dogs mouth and swallow their food just fine even without a full set of teeth. They play with their toys well also. In other words, dental implants do not really improve a dog’s quality of life once his loose teeth are extracted.

“For the reasons of risk and cost and lack of overall benefit,” Dr. Shope says, “we are hard pressed to rationalize the procedure. Some veterinary dentists go as far as to say that it is downright unethical.”


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