Small animals fracture their teeth many ways, from chewing on a cage door, crates or chain link fences. Hard chew toys, ice cubes, or cow hooves may also cause fractures. Auto accidents, aggressive protection training, and dogfights can also fracture a tooth.
All teeth are susceptible to fracture however; in the mature animal the canines are the most common followed by the maxillary 4th premolar and the incisors. In pups less than 6 months old, deciduous canines are the most common.
Just because an animal doesn’t appear to be in pain does not mean damage and discomfort are not occurring. Often pets do not complain to us until severe infection has occurred. Animals experience extreme pain when the tooth fractures, as those of you know that have fractured a tooth. Eventually the pulp dies and the pain decreases until an abscess forms.
Animals show dental pain many ways:
- Chewing on one side
- Pawing at their mouth
- Dropping food while eating
- Shying away from being petted
- Refusing hard food or chew toys
Besides pain, infection can result from fractured teeth. Once the pulp is exposed bacteria in the mouth have access to the circulation and may cause damage to heart valves, kidneys and liver as well causing a painful abscess at the root. Even if the pulp is not exposed fracture of the enamel allows exposure of the dentin tubules, which communicate with the pulp, also a means of abscess formation.
Digital dental x-ray to the right shows apical abscess of the above carnassial tooth.
If a fracture is detected early, endodontic care can save the tooth. Veterinarians with advanced dentistry training such as Dr. Nossaman can perform root canals. If this treatment is not an option, the tooth must be extracted to relieve the pain and protect infection that will affect your precious friend’s quality of life.
As you can see from the above left photo, there was nothing externally to indicate the severe apical (root) abscess on this tooth. Luckily, digital dental x-rays are always taken at Anasazi Animal Clinic which allows us to treat your special friend correctly, saving him from months of pain and even the systemic effects of oral infection.