Extraction is a option for relieving pain and infection, and is therefore far more humane than allowing animals to suffer with a sore or unhealthy mouth. In many situations there are other treatment options available that can both relieve pain and infection, while preserving dental function.
Pet cats and dogs can live happy, healthy lives with missing teeth, or even no teeth. However, major teeth such as the canines (fangs) and carnassials (large cheek teeth) do serve important functions, both for chewing and in maintaining the position of the tongue and lips. Extraction of these teeth often requires aggressive removal of bone that can weaken the jawbone. Frequently, saving a tooth is less painful than extraction, and preserving dental function can maintain the pet’s current quality of life.
If periodontal disease is found early enough, many teeth can be saved with non-invasive treatments. Procedures such as root canal therapy or vital pulpotomy for fractured teeth are less painful and invasive for cats and dogs than extracting teeth with large, solid roots. Some painful orthodontic problems, where misplaced teeth are damaging the sensitive tissues of the mouth or other teeth, can be treated by orthodontic devices such as plates or braces, or reduction of the height of the offending teeth (vital pulpotomy).
Advanced tooth-preserving procedures are becoming more readily available for our pets, so it is worth considering all your options, including their benefits and drawbacks, prior to extraction.
Comment on dog root canal treatments below.