What Happens After Your Dog Fractures a Tooth
Dental procedures may result in bad news
Dental, oral and maxillofacial diseases are, by far, the most common medical conditions in small animal veterinary medicine. “They cause significant pain, as well as localized and potentially systemic infection but, because pets rarely show outward signs of disease, treatment is often delayed or not performed with a corresponding impact on the welfare of the patient.” And the Global Dental Guidelines discussed in this article reflect this line of thinking which is really important for all our animals. With that in mind, dental issues can sneak up on all of us!
As a former Vet Tech, I believe that anesthesia is essential for all dental procedures. Walter was recently in for his annual dental cleaning and we discovered that his carnassial or pre-molar was fractured. Poor Walter! He didn’t show any signs of pain. We would not have had any idea without X-Rays during his annual cleaning! How long was he living with this fractured tooth? If left untreated, complications can occur.
What do the charts look like? So where is this tooth?
He broke that upper left carnassial. it’s the largest tooth above – It’s the main tooth used to break up or crush hard material and for power chewers like Walter, these can break. This article breaks it down below with the diagram. The above tooth was BEFORE he broke it.
“If you look inside your dog’s mouth you will notice one tooth that is much larger than the rest. It is on the upper jaw, about halfway back. It is the fourth premolar, sometimes referred to as the carnassial tooth (Figure 1). In wild canines, it is the main tooth used to break up or crush hard material in their diets such as bones or large pieces of meat. Today’s canine diets, even the all-dry ones, really do not require this big “work horse” tooth for the animal to adequately break up his food before swallowing. Still, it is there, and it poses some unique problems for the older dog.” -Pet Education
Root Canal vs. Extraction
Before I get into the details – of how I decided, your Veterinarian will let you know if they handle the procedure or if you need to see a dental specialist. In our case, a root canal would have been done by a specialist.
Ok, I read a lot of articles like this one to weigh the pros and cons. There were a lot of factors involved: recovery, will this happen again, cost, and ongoing maintenance post surgery. We have pet insurance thankfully so we factored that in as Walter’s plan covers a percentage of both an extraction and a root canal.
- Root canals preserve the function of the tooth.
- They involve little to no discomfort to your pet and are less traumatic than extraction which involves incising soft tissue and removal of bone.
- It is recommended that a crown (cap) be placed to protect the tooth after the procedure, especially on canines, upper 4th premolars, and lower first molars.
- Root canals are >90% successful.
- Annual X-rays are needed for up to five years.
- Extracting a tooth can be more invasive and traumatic as a result of removing the entire tooth.
- Roots of the premolars and molars are multi-rooted and deep into the bone, and extracting them will remove the chewing function and result in bone loss which can weaken the jaw.
How did I decide? Walter is my munchkin! Ultimately, I know Walter is a power chewer. It is highly likely he may break a repaired tooth unless I opt for the root canal with a crown. He’s healthy and young – I’m confident he’ll recover quickly and use the other side of his mouth for chewing. Knowing a second fracture could be in the future, I opted for an extraction. Bruiser had this same tooth extracted years ago and with annual dental procedures, we always checked see there were no issues like bone loss which was pointed out above.
AAHA-Accredited Hospitals: Is this important?
Our Veterinary Hospital is AAHA-Accredited and I know they take dental care very seriously. AAHA-accredited hospitals must pass a 900-point evaluation that assesses safety protocols, equipment, veterinary knowledge, and other fundamental areas of pet health care. I’m super grateful for Frontier Vet Hospital and their staff. It is nerve racking for pet parents when their animals need any type of care or surgery – and I’m at ease knowing my three dogs are in the best of hands!
It is worth checking to see if your Vet Hospital is accredited. Dental surgery may be done by your Veterinarian or by a specialist as I mentioned earlier but the protocols AAHA-accredited hospitals have in place may impact your decision on where you choose to have the dental procedure.
Walter recovered quickly. He has been on pain medication for the past five days which is so important since I’m confident my mouth would hurt!