Sometimes, dogs can chew something so hard, or suffer a traumatic injury, that one of their teeth breaks. Today, our Marina del Rey vets will discuss fractured teeth in dogs, how they happen, and how you can help.
How can dogs break their teeth?
Dog owners often encounter fractured teeth in their furry companions, which may stem from various factors such as external trauma (e.g., being struck by a car or an object) or the habit of gnawing on rigid items like antlers, bones, or sturdy chew toys. Among the affected teeth, canines (fangs) and the large, pointed upper cheek teeth at the back of the mouth are most susceptible to breakage in dogs.
Are broken teeth a problem for dogs?
Yes, it is. The tooth's interior gets filled with infected material, which gradually seeps into the jaw through tiny openings at the root's tip. Due to the sheltered environment within the root canal, the body's immune system finds it challenging to eradicate the infection, even with the help of antibiotics. As the bacteria escape from the tooth's apex, they can disseminate over time, causing localized dental discomfort during chewing and leading to infections in various other parts of the dog's body.
What are the signs of a fractured 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 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 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?
Addressing broken teeth promptly is crucial for restoring pain-free functionality. Neglecting the issue may lead to heightened sensitivity and discomfort. When the nerve is exposed, two common solutions exist: root canal therapy or extraction. Conversely, if the nerve remains intact, the tooth can be repaired without requiring root canal therapy.
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. A medicated dressing is applied to the newly exposed pulp to promote healing. 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?
Take a close look at your canine companion's chew toys and treats. Ensure the safety of your furry friend by eliminating bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from your living space. Discard any chews or toys that are too rigid or tough for easy bending. For added peace of mind, consider consulting your veterinarian or verifying the products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) seal of approval.