At times, dogs may chew on something very tough or experience a serious injury that causes one of their teeth to break. In today's article, our veterinarians from Oakwood will talk about broken teeth in dogs, explaining their causes and providing guidance on how you can assist.
How can dogs break their teeth?
Dogs often experience broken teeth, usually due to accidents like getting hit or chewing on tough items like antlers and bones. The most common teeth to break are the fang teeth and large pointed back teeth in a dog's mouth.
Are broken teeth a problem for dogs?
Indeed, it is. The inner part of the tooth gets filled with infected material, which can slowly move into the jaw through small openings at the root's tip. Since bacteria find a safe place within the root canal, the body's immune system, even with antibiotics, can't get rid of the infection. These bacteria can escape from the tooth's tip and cause dental pain when the dog chews, and they may also lead to infections in other body areas.
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 see any of these signs, it might be time to take your dog to the vet for a dental checkup.
You can also take a look at your dog's teeth (if they're comfortable with it) to check for any chips or cracks. Dogs can experience six types of tooth fractures.
- 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?
Broken teeth usually need treatment to work without pain. If you ignore the issue, the tooth can become sensitive and hurt. When the nerve is exposed, you generally have two choices: root canal treatment or removal. If the nerve isn't exposed, the tooth can be fixed without needing a root canal.
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.
How can I prevent my dog from fracturing teeth?
Check your dog's chew toys and treats. Take out bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from your home. Discard any toys or treats that are hard to flex. Ask your vet or look for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) seal of approval.