Dogs may break a tooth when chewing on something hard or experiencing a traumatic injury. In this article, our vets in Ankeny discuss the causes and solutions for broken or chipped teeth in dogs. Learn about how they happen and what you can do to help.
Causes of Fractured Teeth in Dogs
Dogs often experience fractured teeth due to external trauma, like being hit by a car or an object or from chewing on hard items such as antlers, bones, or other rigid chew toys. The canine (fang) teeth and the large upper pointed cheek teeth at the back of the mouth are the most frequently broken in dogs.
How Fractured Teeth Impact Dogs
The tooth harbors infected material that seeps into the jaw through root tip holes. Despite antibiotic treatment, the body's immune system cannot eliminate the infection due to the bacteria in the root canal. Over time, the escaping bacteria from the tooth's apex can spread, causing dental pain during chewing and infecting other body parts.
Symptoms of a Tooth Fracture in Dogs
Symptoms 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 observe any of these signs, schedule a vet appointment for a dental examination.
Additionally, check your dog's teeth (if they permit) for chips or fractures. 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 crown fracture 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
Most broken teeth need treatment for pain-free function. Ignoring the issue will make the tooth sensitive and painful. If the nerve is exposed, you typically have two options: undergo root canal therapy or have the tooth extracted. You can repair the tooth without requiring root canal therapy if the nerve 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. Instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal to prevent further bacterial infection and save the tooth. 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. Removing huge canine and chewing teeth requires oral surgery, similar to removing impacted wisdom teeth in human patients.
Preventing Tooth Fractures in Dogs
Inspect your dog's chew toys and snacks. Eliminate bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from your home. Discard any chews or toys that prove challenging to bend. Consult your veterinarian or verify items with 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.