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Fractured Teeth in Dogs

Your dog uses their mouth to explore the world. Unfortunately, they may break a tooth when they bite on something too hard. Here, our Deer Park vets discuss fractured teeth in dogs, how they happen and what is done to treat this issue.

What causes dogs to experience a broken tooth (fracture)?

A broken (fractured) or chipped tooth in dogs can be caused by external trauma (like an accident) or chewing on hard objects such as antlers, bones, or other hard, non-bending chew toys. The canine (fang) teeth and the massive upper pointed cheek teeth in the back of the mouth are the most commonly broken in a dog.

What is the impact of a broken or chipped tooth on dogs?

If your dog has a broken tooth, infected material will fill 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, your dog's natural defenses (immune system) will have difficulty clearing the infection. This bacteria can escape the tooth and spread, producing local dental pain whenever the dog chews and infection in other body parts.

Fractured (Broken) Dog Tooth Symptoms

If your dog has a broken tooth, the symptoms they may experience 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.

Different Types of Dog Tooth Fractures

The six different types of tooth fractures in dogs are:

  • Enamel fracture: A fracture with loss of crown substance confined to the enamel.
  • Uncomplicated crown fracture: This is a chip of break in the crown that does not expose the pulp.
  • Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
  • Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: This break impacts the root and crown without exposing the pulp.
  • Complicated crown-root fracture: A crown and root fracture that exposes the pulp.
  • Root fracture: This fracture or break involves the tooth's root.

Is a broken dog tooth an emergency?

If your dog has any fracture, chip or break in their tooth, it is considered an emergency. Untreated fractured teeth can lead to infections and further damage; untreated tooth infections can become systemic, affecting organs.

What are the treatment options for fractured teeth in dogs?

Most of the time, your dog will require treatment for a broken tooth. This will address any pain and prevent further complications like infections. Ignoring the situation will result in the tooth being sensitive and painful. If the nerve is exposed, there are usually two options: root canal therapy or extraction. The tooth can be repaired without root canal therapy if the nerve is not 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. 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. There is a chance that dogs treated this way will still require a root canal later on.

Tooth Extraction: In some cases, a tooth extraction may be required. 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.

Is there any way to prevent broken teeth in dogs?

You can begin by examining your dog's toys, chews, snacks and treats. 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 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.

Has your dog fractured one or more fo their teeth? Contact our Deer Park vets right away to schedule a dental examination.

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