Sometimes, dogs can break a tooth when they chew something very hard or have a bad injury. In today's blog, our Mahopac vets discuss fractured teeth in dogs, how they happen, and how you can help.
Causes of Fractured Teeth in Dogs
Dogs often get broken teeth, usually from accidents like getting hit by a car or biting hard stuff like antlers, bones, or other hard, non-bending chew toys. The canine (fang) teeth and the massive upper pointed cheek teeth in the back of the mouth are the most commonly broken in a dog.
How Fractured Teeth Impact Dogs
When a tooth gets infected, the problem goes deep. The infection goes into the tooth's root and even into the jaw through tiny holes at the root's tip. Because the bacteria have a haven inside the root canal, the body's immune system, even with antibiotic treatment, is unable to eliminate the infection. Bacteria escaping the apex of the tooth can spread over time, producing local dental pain every time the dog chews and infection in other parts of the body.
Signs of a Tooth Fracture in Dogs
Signs to look for include:
- Chewing on one side
- Dropping food from the mouth
- Excessive drooling
- Grinding of teeth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Facial swelling
- Lymph node enlargement
- Shying away when the face is petted
- Refusing to eat hard food
- Refusing to chew on hard treats or toys
If you notice any of these, a trip to the vet for a dental examination might be necessary.
Further, you can examine your dog's teeth (if they allow you) to see if there is a chip or fracture. There are six classifications of tooth fractures in dogs:
- Enamel fracture: A fracture with loss of crown substance confined to the enamel.
- Uncomplicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that does not expose the pulp.
- Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
- Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: A crown and root fracture that does not expose the pulp.
- Complicated crown-root fracture: A crown and root fracture that exposes the pulp.
- Root fracture: A fracture involving the root of the tooth.
Treatment for Fractured Teeth in Dogs
Many broken teeth need treatment to stop pain and discomfort. If you ignore the problem, the tooth will become sensitive and hurt. If the inner part of the tooth is exposed, you usually have two choices: a root canal or removing the tooth. The tooth can be fixed without a root canal if the inner part isn't exposed.
Root Canal: An X-ray of the tooth assesses the surrounding bone and validates the root's integrity. The unhealthy tissue inside the root canal is removed during a root canal. To prevent further bacterial infection and save the tooth, instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal. The long-term outcomes of root canal therapy are generally excellent.
Vital Pulp Therapy: In younger dogs (under 18 months), vital pulp therapy may be used on freshly broken teeth. A layer of pulp is removed to eliminate surface microorganisms and inflammatory tissue. To promote healing, a medicated dressing is applied to the newly exposed pulp. Teeth treated with this method may require root canal therapy in the future.
Tooth Extraction: The other option is to extract damaged teeth. However, most veterinarians attempt to avoid extracting cracked but otherwise healthy teeth. The removal of huge canine and chewing teeth requires oral surgery, similar to the removal of impacted wisdom teeth in human patients.
Preventing Tooth Fractures in Dogs
Examine your dog's toys and treats. Get rid of bones, antlers, cow hooves, hard nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from the house. Throw away any chews or toys that are difficult to bend. Inquire with your veterinarian or check for items bearing the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) seal of approval.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. Please make an appointment with your vet to accurately diagnose your pet's condition.