These risks are far outweighed by the benefits of restoring oral health to a pet that may be suffering in silence. In addition to chronic pain, untreated periodontal disease or abscessed teeth* can cause kidney disease, abscesses in the liver, pneumonia, and bacterial endocarditis (heart infection, often fatal).
Minnie is a cat who had seen several veterinarians over the past 2 years, and all of them said not to worry about the fractured canine tooth on her lower jaw. X-ray (with white arrow) and cone-beam CT (with red arrow) images show the severe destruction of bone and tooth, an indication that the area has been infected and inflamed for a very long time. Cats excel at hiding pain, so Minnie's owner was unaware that this tooth was causing severe problems. We extracted the tooth.
*Dental abscesses can be periodontal (from disease around the tooth) or endodontal (from disease within the tooth). Periodontitis results from the immune response to plaque bacteria on the teeth. The immune response starts by causing inflammation in the gums (gingivitis), and progresses to involve the bone. When the bone that supports the teeth is destroyed, teeth become loose. The gum may or may not recede. Eventually the teeth will fall out, but allowing this to happen jeopardizes Atticus's general health (constant infection and immune stimulation) and risks possible spontaneous jaw fracture. Periodontitis is a chronic disease which can be managed but not cured. Endodontic disease results from pulp exposure, which in dogs is most often due to a fracture of the crown of the tooth. An endodontic abscess can also result from severe periodontal bone loss affecting the entire root and allowing bacteria to enter the pulp at the root tip. Concussive trauma can also cause the pulp inside a tooth to die, and result in an endodontic abscess (also called a "tooth root abscess" or "periapical abscess").