Broken teeth are common in dogs and cats. They are painful, and require veterinary treatment. Find out how to tell if your pet might have a broken tooth.
Broken Teeth in Dogs and Cats
You may not spend a lot of time inside your dog’s or cat’s mouth. After all, it can be a pretty stinky and dirty place! While not every dog or cat will have a broken tooth, it is a common dental problem.
Common Causes of Broken Teeth
The most common reason that teeth break is because of some kind of trauma. This could be from a fall, being hit by a car, or even just catching a ball wrong. Dogs who like to chew on things can break their teeth this way, too. Chewing on rocks, sticks, hard balls, crate bars, bones, or other hard chew toys can also break teeth.
While any tooth can break, the most common teeth that are broken are the canine teeth (in dogs and cats), or the fourth upper premolar (in dogs). The canine teeth are often injured in trauma or by chewing. Because dogs chew with their back teeth, the fourth upper premolar is more likely to break than other teeth.
Signs of Broken Teeth
Broken teeth hurt! Signs of tooth pain can be very subtle in dogs, and especially in cats. If you notice any of these signs, it could mean that your pet has mouth pain from dental disease or from a broken tooth.
- Flinching when you touch his mouth
- Difficulty eating – dropping food, or chewing only on one side of his mouth
- Refusing dry food or hard treats
- Refusing all food
- Red-colored, or bloody, drool
- Swelling on his face
A dog or a cat who has dental pain may simply be unusually cranky, or want to be left alone more than normal. If you notice any of these signs in your dog or cat, please call us (or your regular veterinarian) right away for an examination.
Complications of Broken Teeth
If broken teeth are left untreated, they can cause some problems for your pet in addition to persistent pain. Your pet’s mouth has lots of normal bacteria living there. (These bacteria are what cause plaque and tartar to build up, and eventually cause dental disease.) When the enamel (the outer surface of your pet’s teeth) is broken, the bacteria can get inside the broken tooth and cause an infection. Over time, the tooth will actually die from this infection. Once the tooth is dead, the infection can spread into the jaw bone around the tooth.
An infection in the jaw can cause persistent sinus infections (in the upper jaw) or even a jaw fracture (in the lower jaw). As the infection gets more severe, it can be spread through the blood to your pet’s liver, kidney, and heart. Because of all these potential complications, broken teeth need to be treated.
Treatment for Broken Teeth
Even if they don’t look “that bad”, broken teeth need to be treated. There are three different options for treating broken teeth.
- Root canal. This is just like a root canal that you would get at your dentist. A root canal can be done on a tooth that is not badly infected and does not have severe dental disease.
- Vital pulpotomy. A vital pulpotomy is best done in immature teeth, in pets under 18 months of age.
- Extraction. An extraction is done when a root canal or vital pulpotomy is not an option, due to the severity of the tooth fracture, the extent of infection, or other dental disease on that tooth or in the gums.
At the Princeton Veterinary Hospital, we do not have the necessary equipment to perform a root canal or a vital pulpotomy. We can do extractions when needed. We can refer you and your pet to a veterinary dentist to have a root canal or a vital pulpotomy performed if your pet would benefit from this procedure.
Do you think your dog or cat has mouth pain, or a broken tooth? Call us or come in. Our veterinarians will give your dog or cat a physical examination, including an examination of her mouth. We can make further recommendations about diagnostic tests or treatment after the exam.