Are there long term problems from having teeth extracted?

Question: 

My 6 yr old sheltie just had her 4 bottom teeth pulled, between the canines, during  a cleaning because they were loose. All other teeth are fine. Are there any short or long term repercussions from having these teeth removed?

Answer: 

The small teeth located between the canines are the incisor teeth. In dogs, there are usually six lower incisors and six upper incisors. In Shelties and some other breeds, these teeth may be predisposed to developing periodontal disease, which is the most common reason for tooth mobility. Periodontal disease is result of chronic uncontrolled plaque bacteria, which eventually results in inflammation and destruction of the tissues surrounding a tooth. Depending of the degree of tissue destruction, treatment options for teeth affected by periodontal disease include 1) teeth scaling & polishing, 2) advanced periodontal treatment, which may include surgery, bone graft placement, and/or placement of other regenerative materials, or 3) extractions. Each treatment option has advantages and disadvantages, and the correct choice is dependent upon many variables, including the severity of disease, the functional importance of the tooth, the general health of the pet, the anticipated dental home care, the expected follow-up care, financial constraints, the skill of the clinician, and the expectation of the pet owner. Extraction offers the benefit of a very predictable outcome. Infection is removed. Oral health is improved. Pain is eliminated. And potentially, the dog's general health may benefit as well, since harmful mouth bacteria and the associated inflammatory mediators are not spreading to other places in the body.

With respect to your question about your Sheltie, she will likely do well without these teeth. The incisors are not used for chewing. They are "nibbling" teeth. Dog may use these teeth to help remove parasites from the hair coat; this isn't usually much of a concern for pets with good flea and tick prevention. Wolves use their incisors to help scrape meat off bones; again, this isn't much of a concern to most pet dogs who eat prepared food for the most part. In some cases, loss of the lower incisors may result in tongue protrusion, but usually the lower canine teeth (the fang teeth) must also be absent for this to occur.

In people, extraction of teeth may be followed by loss of bone height. Shifting of adjacent teeth may also occur, resulting in orthodontic issues. These are not usually a concern in our pet dogs. Carnivores have relatively long roots relative to the size of the crowns, so teeth tend not to shift easily. Although bone height loss may occur, the strength of the remaining bone should be good as long as all infection was removed.

Moving forward, you will want to discuss a dental home care plan with your veterinarian to prevent recurrence of periodontal disease and avoid future extractions. Should advanced periodontal treatment ever be needed in the future, referral to a boarded veterinary dental specialist should strongly be considered.