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Fractured Teeth in Dogs

Sometimes, dogs can chew something so hard, or suffer a traumatic injury, that one of their teeth breaks. Here, our Villa Rica vets discuss dog tooth fractures, how they happen, and what you can do to help.

Causes of a Chipped Tooth in Dogs

Fractured teeth are common in dogs and can be caused by external trauma (e.g., being hit by a car or an item) or chewing on hard objects like antlers, bones, or non-bending chew toys. The canine tooth and the massive upper pointed cheek teeth in the back of the mouth are the most frequently broken in dogs.

How Fractured Teeth Impact Dogs

Infected material fills the inside of the tooth, eventually trickling into the jaw through the holes in the tip of the root. 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 dental pain every time the dog chews and a possible infection in other parts of the body.

Symptoms of a Broken Tooth 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 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.

Treatment for Fractured Teeth in Dogs

Most broken teeth require treatment to function properly. Ignoring the situation will make the tooth sensitive and painful. If the nerve is exposed, there are typically two treatment options: root canal therapy or extraction. If the nerve was not exposed, the tooth can be repaired without undergoing 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 tooth is removed during a root canal. To prevent further bacterial infection and save the tooth, instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill 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. 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.

Is a broken tooth in dogs an emergency?

A broken tooth in dogs can be considered an emergency if it is causing pain, bleeding, or infection. It is important to seek veterinary care promptly to prevent further complications and ensure your dog's comfort and well-being.

Preventing a Broken Tooth in Dogs

Examine your dog's chew toys and snacks. Remove all bones, antlers, cow hoofs, 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) 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 for an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition.

Are you worried that your dog may have fractured a tooth? Contact our Villa Rica vets to have your pup cared for.

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