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Chipped Tooth in Dogs - What to Do if Your Dog Has a Broken Tooth

Dogs often experience chipped or fractured teeth. Is a broken dog tooth an emergency? It might be. Today's post contains information about broken teeth in dogs, and what to do about dog tooth fractures.

How Dogs Can Break a Tooth

It's certainly not unusual for dogs to sustain tooth damage such as fractured, chipped, or broken teeth. In most cases, these dental issues are the result of external trauma (for example, being hit by a car or an item) or chewing on very hard objects such as antlers, bones, or other non-bending chew toys.

The canine (fang) teeth and the massive upper pointed cheek teeth in the back of the mouth are most susceptible to breakage.

Should I be concerned if my dog breaks a tooth?

Yes. Broken teeth can be painful for dogs, but it's also important to note that if the broken tooth becomes infected severe health problems can develop.

Infected material fills the inside of the tooth, eventually trickling into the jaw through the holes in the tip of the root. Because the bacteria have a haven inside the root canal, the body's immune system, even with the help of antibiotic treatment, may be unable to eliminate the infection. Bacteria escaping the apex of the tooth can spread over time, producing local dental pain every time the dog chews and infection in other parts of the body.

What are the most common dog broken tooth symptoms?

If your dog has a damaged tooth that isn't immediately obvious, you may notice one or more of the following signs:

  • Chewing only on one side
  • Dropping food from the mouth when eating
  • Uncharacteristic, excessive drooling
  • Grinding of teeth
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Facial swelling
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Shying away when the face is petted
  • Refusing to eat hard food
  • Refusing to chew on hard treats or toys

If you notice any of these, a trip to the vet for a dental examination might be necessary. If your dog is showing signs of extreme pain contact your local emergency vet for guidance.

Further, you can examine your dog's teeth (if they allow you) to see if there is a chip or fracture. There are six classifications of tooth fractures in dogs:

  • Enamel fracture: A fracture with loss of crown substance confined to the enamel.
  • Uncomplicated crown fracture: A fracture of the tooth crown that does not expose the pulp.
  • Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
  • Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: A fracture of the crown and root that does not expose the pulp.
  • Complicated crown-root fracture: A fracture of the crown and root that exposes the pulp.
  • Root fracture: A fracture involving the root of the tooth.

How will my veterinarian treat my dog's broken tooth?

Most broken teeth require treatment to function painlessly. Ignoring the situation will result in the tooth being sensitive and painful. If the nerve is exposed, there are usually two options: root canal therapy or extraction. If the nerve is not exposed, the tooth can be repaired without the need for root canal therapy.

Root Canal: An X-ray of the tooth assesses the surrounding bone and validates the root's integrity. The unhealthy tissue inside the root canal is removed during a root canal. To prevent further bacterial infection and save the tooth, instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal. The long-term outcomes of root canal therapy are generally excellent.

Vital Pulp Therapy: In younger dogs (under 18 months), vital pulp therapy may be used on freshly broken teeth. To eliminate surface microorganisms and inflammatory tissue, a layer of pulp is removed. To promote healing, a medicated dressing is applied to the newly exposed pulp. Teeth treated with this method may require root canal therapy in the future.

Tooth Extraction: The other option is to extract damaged teeth. However, most veterinarians attempt to avoid extracting cracked but otherwise healthy teeth. Extracting huge canine and chewing teeth requires oral surgery, similar to the removal of impacted wisdom teeth in human patients.

How can I prevent my dog from fracturing teeth?

Examine your dog's chew toys and snacks. Remove all bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from the house. Throw away any chews or toys that are difficult to bend. Speak with your veterinarian or check for items bearing the Veterinary Oral Health Council ( seal of approval.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

All broken teeth in dogs should be examined by a veterinarian to help ensure that infection does not set in, and that your dog isn't in pain. Contact Hillcrest Animal Hospital to book an examination if your dog has a broken tooth.

Contact (901) 377-2244