Sometimes, dogs can chew something so hard, or suffer a traumatic injury, that one of their teeth breaks. Today, our Hattiesburg and Wiggins vets will discuss fractured teeth in dogs, how they happen, and what you can do to help.
How can dogs break their teeth?
Dogs frequently suffer from broken teeth, which can be brought on by chewing on hard materials like bones, antlers, or other hard chew toys that don't bend, or by external trauma like getting struck by a car or other object. The teeth that break most frequently in dogs are the canine (fang) teeth and the large upper pointed cheek teeth in the back of the mouth.
Is a broken dog tooth an emergency?
Not necessarily right away, but can cause a host of problems. The interior of the tooth becomes filled with infected material, which eventually seeps through the holes in the root tip and into the jaw. Even with antibiotic therapy, the body's immune system cannot completely eradicate the infection because the bacteria have established a home inside the root canal. Over time, bacteria that escape the tooth's apex may travel throughout the body, causing infections in other parts of the body as well as constant pain in the dog's mouth when it chews.
What are the symptoms of a broken dog tooth?
Signs to look for include:
- Chewing on one side
- Dropping food from the mouth when eating
- 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 chipped or fractured tooth. 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 fracture of the crown and root that does not expose the pulp.
- Complicated crown-root fracture: A fracture of the crown and root that exposes the pulp.
- Root fracture: A fracture involving the root of the tooth.
What are some treatment options for fixing broken teeth?
For most broken teeth to function painlessly, treatment is necessary. If you ignore the issue, the tooth will become sensitive and painful. In most cases, root canal therapy or extraction are the two options available if the exposed nerve. Root canal therapy is not necessary if the exposed nerve allows for tooth repair.
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. To eliminate surface microorganisms and inflammatory tissue, a layer of pulp is removed. 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.
How can I prevent my dog from fracturing teeth?
Check out the snacks and chew toys for your dog. Take out of the house everything that has bones, antlers, cow hooves, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks. Discard any toys or chews that are hard to bend. Ask your vet about products that have the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) seal of approval, or look for them.