If you notice your dog has a broken (fractured) tooth, or is showing the symptoms of having one, it is very important to have it taken care of by a vet as soon as possible.
An untreated broken tooth is vulnerable to an infection caused by bacteria from your dog’s saliva. In a worst-case scenario, bacteria from an infected tooth can spread to other parts of your dog’s body, especially the kidneys and liver.
“Pets with broken or fractured teeth are an extremely common presentation for veterinarians. We see at least one case daily and several weekly,” notes mypetsdentist.com.
What Causes a Broken Tooth?
Your dog can break a tooth by chewing on rocks, bones or other hard objects. It can also be caused by trauma, such as being hit in the face with a ball or roughhousing with another dog.
“The most common teeth that are broken are the canine (fang) teeth in the dog and the cat, and the upper fourth premolar (large tooth on the top in the back) in dogs,” Dog Beach Dentistry writes.
On PetPlace.com, Dr. David Nielsen explains, “Tooth trauma and/or a fracture or break can have enamel and dentin missing, pulp exposure with and without bleeding, a dark discolored tooth, a loose tooth or facial swelling over the root of a damaged tooth. Any portion of the root or crown can be broken or damaged. A tooth can even be knocked from its socket (avulsion).”
What are the Symptoms of a Broken Tooth?
While this seems like a no-brainer, a broken tooth isn’t always noticeable.
“A fracture can occur below the gum line, vertically or horizontally in the tooth,” writes Nielsen. He notes that although a broken tooth can cause extreme discomfort, your dog might not act as if he is in pain.
Any of the following symptoms can indicate a broken tooth, according to Nielsen:
Changes in the shape, color or position of a tooth
Your dog doesn’t let you touch his face or head
Difficulty chewing food
Refusing to eat crunchy food
Your dog drops food he’s eating and has difficulty picking it up
How is a Broken Tooth Treated?
You should take your dog to the vet at the first sign of a broken tooth, since there are no do-it-yourself home remedies for treating it.
Should your dog’s entire tooth become dislodged, Nielsen recommends placing it in whole milk, without scrubbing or washing the tooth beforehand.
After your vet or a veterinary dentist examines your dog and takes note of his medical history, dental X-rays will be taken to determine the extent of the fracture. This may need to be done while your dog is under general anesthesia.
A periodontal probe, in which a blunt-tipped instrument is inserted under the gums, may also be performed.
“The level at which the root is fractured helps determine if the tooth can be saved,” writes Nielsen.
Depending on the severity of the fracture, treatment options include a sealant, root canal, vital pulpotomy or extraction.
Sealant – “If only the dentin is exposed and not the dental pulp, then a fluoride or bonding sealant, the material dentists apply to children’s molars that prevents cavities, can be applied,” writes Nielsen. “This reduces sensitivity and prevents bacterial invasion of the pulp cavity.”
Root canal – If the dental pulp is damaged but the tooth is otherwise healthy, Dog Beach Dentistry says this is the best treatment option. Just like the procedure for humans, all the pulp is removed from the tooth and the canals are filled to prevent the growth of bacteria.
Vital pulpotomy – Dog Beach Dentistry notes that this procedure works best on dogs younger than 18 months old whose teeth are not yet fully developed. Unlike a root canal, only part of the pulp is removed, so the tooth is still alive and can continue to grow.
Extraction – Pulling the tooth is usually done only as a last resort since it requires oral surgery and recovery can be long and painful, considering that the roots of a dog’s tooth are twice as long and wide as the tooth itself. Your dog’s chewing ability could also be permanently affected by the loss of the tooth.
After the broken tooth is treated, you will need to give your dog antibiotics and pain medication. Your vet may recommend a diet of only soft foods during the healing process, and you should keep chew toys away from your dog.
How Can I Prevent a Broken Tooth?
While accidental trauma to your dog’s mouth might be unavoidable, you can stop him from chewing on rocks, sticks and other hard objects, and from playing roughly with other dogs.
Nielsen notes that a fluoride treatment before before your dog is 18 months old may slightly strengthen his teeth.
Find A Vet HOW TO articles are intended for informational purposes only. You should always consult with your veterinarian about any health issues affecting your dog.