Fractured or broken teeth are a very common problem in pets, especially dogs, who will often put just about anything in their mouths. A dog’s chipped tooth can result from trauma or chewing on hard objects. If your dog breaks a tooth, it is important to seek dental care immediately to avoid any further issues or complications.
Chipped Teeth in Dogs
The teeth most commonly fractured in dogs are the canines (fangs) and the maxillary fourth premolars, which are the large upper chewing teeth toward the back of the mouth. Canine teeth tend to fracture from trauma, rough play like tug of war, catching hard objects thrown for them or pulling on heavy objects. The back chewing teeth tend to break from chewing on hard objects like hard chew toys, real bones, antlers, ice, cow hooves, and other hard objects. To prevent chipped teeth and avoid this issue, try to give your dog softer chew toys and treats that are slightly bendable.
Make sure that your pet’s teeth are checked for any fractures every time they are examined by a veterinarian. These can sometimes be hard to appreciate if they are in the back of the mouth. If you notice your dog has a chipped tooth, you should make an appointment to be seen by a veterinary dentist as soon as possible to treat the fracture.
Treating Fractures with exposure of the Dentin
The dentin of the tooth (under the enamel layer) can be exposed in more superficial fractures, but the pulp (nerve) chamber is not. These superficially fractured teeth can be painful and can also become infected inside, even without the pulp chamber being exposed. Before treatment, these more superficial fractured teeth should be assessed with dental radiographs to determine if they are still vital (alive). If they are not infected or dead, the fracture sites can be smoothed and the exposed dentin sealed with materials that decrease tooth sensitivity and decrease the possibility of future infection. This procedure is relatively simple and is referred to as bonded sealants.
Treating Fractures with exposure of the pulp chamber
For a fractured tooth with pulp exposure, there are three potential procedures that can be performed to solve the problem:
- Root Canal Therapy
- Vital Pulp Therapy (occasionally used for very recent fractures)
Root Canal Therapy
Root canal therapy, when performed correctly, preserves the tooth itself, as well as the function of the tooth. During this procedure, the blood and nerve supply of the tooth are replaced, and the access hole is covered with a sealant to keep bacteria out of the pulp chamber.
Root canals are generally a successful means of treatment when it comes to chipped teeth in dogs, with a 95% success rate. Following root canal treatment, dogs usually will no longer have any problems from the affected tooth.
Vital Pulp Therapy (Pulp Cap)
In some cases, if your dog is young, vital pulp therapy might be considered in lieu of root canal therapy. Puppies under the age of 14-18 months are not good candidates for root canal therapy, because their teeth are not fully formed, weaker, and more likely to fracture in the future. Vital Pulp Therapy allows these immature teeth to continue to develop and become stronger.
After a Vital Pulp Therapy, it is crucial to have follow up exams and x-rays regularly to ensure that the tooth is still alive and developing properly. While the success rate of a vital pulpotomy procedure is reported to be about 85% (slightly lower than that of the root canal), we have achieved much higher success rates than this with this procedure. If root canal therapy is possible, we will usually choose this option as the success rate is even higher.
Extraction is usually the last option when it comes to repairing a chipped tooth, especially the larger and more important teeth. If the tooth has fractured roots, tooth resorption, severe root damage or pre-existing periodontal disease, repair of the tooth might not be an option. Extraction removes the function of the tooth and is more traumatic than root canal therapy or vital pulp therapy.
Does your dog have a chipped tooth?
Located in Bozeman, Dr. Woodward is the only board-certified veterinary dentist in all of Montana and is very skilled in repairing chipped, broken, or fractured teeth in dogs. Call our office to schedule an appointment today.
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