What To Do When A Dog Tooth Breaks
WHAT TO DO WHEN A DOG TOOTH BREAKS
When your dog eats relunctantly or chews on one side, check the teeth
If these early signs are missed and the tooth becomes infected, the
owner will instead be seeing severe and sudden swelling of the dog's jaw --
or worse yet, gum discharge accompanied by sneezing and nasal discharge.
"When a broken tooth is discovered, it is important to determine if
the soft pulp inside the tooth is exposed," said Dr. Sandra Manfra, small
animal surgeon and dentist at the University of Illinois Veterinary
Teaching Hospital. "If there is a small hole in the broken surface of the
tooth, then the pulp is exposed. If there is not a hole, only the
superficial part of the tooth is exposed and the tooth usually doesn't
require any special treatment."
Your veterinarian can check for pulpal exposure with a small dental
A tooth that has slowly worn down over time will have a brown spot
that can be mistaken for a broken tooth. If the veterinarian using a dental
explorer cannot find a hole in the brown spot, then the tooth is worn down
and doesn't need any treatment.
When the tooth first breaks, it will bleed if the soft pulp inside is
exposed. At this time the nerves in the pulp are exposed and the tooth is
very painful. The nerves in the tooth slowly die over a few weeks to
months; then there is no pain. The tooth can remain in this state for
months or years.
Bacteria will enter the hole in the tooth and cause inflammation of
the tooth root and surrounding bone. At this time the animal will again
feel pain, now through the nerves in the bone. Inflammation is the body's
way of rejecting the dead tooth by destroying the ligament
that attaches the tooth to the bone, but this process can take years and
can be very painful.
"Pet owners have three choices when they find their pet has a broken
tooth," says Dr. Manfra. "They can do nothing, they can have the tooth
extracted, or they can save the tooth with a root canal."
If the tooth is treated soon after it breaks, the problems of
infection can be avoided. Untreated younger animals will develop an
infection within two years of the break because the tooth roots are not yet
sealed off; older animals may not develop an infection.
However, once a tooth is infected, there is a greater risk that it
cannot be saved with a root canal. While it is not recommended to let a
broken tooth go untreated, if that is the owner's choice then the tooth
should be x-rayed periodically so that inflammatory changes around the
tooth can be detected and treated.
Dr. Manfra advises owners to check their pet's mouth regularly.
Inspect the teeth and be sure the gums are pink and healthy. Look for teeth
with fractures or discoloration. If a tooth does not look normal, tap on
it. If this causes pain, then there's probably an abscess. Your
veterinarian can x-ray a painful tooth to look for evidence of bone loss
around the tooth, which indicates an inflammatory reaction.
"Checking for broken teeth is a simple thing to do," says Dr. Manfra.
"However, it should be done cautiously to avoid getting bit!"
For more information about your pet's dental health, contact your
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