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Broken Teeth in Dogs and Cats

Reviewed by Peter Kintzer DVM, DACVIM on Monday, May 5, 2014
Posted April 16, 2014 in Dog Diseases & Conditions A-Z

Why do teeth break and fracture?
It should come as no surprise that, just like us, dogs and cats can fracture or break their teeth. In fact, when you think about all the crazy things some animals chew, it is surprising they don’t fracture their teeth more often. You may already know that pets can break their teeth when chewing on hard objects such as crates, bones, rocks or metal, but not everyone realizes many dogs fracture their teeth when chewing on hard treats like cattle hooves. In addition, any facial trauma, for example, a fall or being hit by a car can fracture teeth.

Signs your pet may have a fractured tooth

  • Pain
  • Reacting or flinching when the mouth or tooth is touched
  • Drooling
  • Trouble eating
  • Abnormal chewing (like chewing only on one side of the mouth)
  • Anorexia
  • Refusing to eat hard food or hard treats
  • Bloody saliva
  • Facial swelling
  • Unusually irritable temperament

It is important to realize that while these are some of the most common signs and symptoms seen in animals with fractured teeth, often there are no signs at all. Even though an animal may have a painful tooth fracture, they may hide the pain and continue to eat normally.

Diagnosing a tooth fracture
If your pet breaks a tooth, the best thing to do is take him to your veterinarian as soon as possible. Your veterinarian will do a complete examination to determine the severity and extent of damage sustained by the affected tooth. Your vet will determine if the fracture involves the pulp cavity (the center of the tooth containing living cells and the nerve) or the tooth roots. She will likely recommend oral x-rays (radiographs) to check the tooth below the gum line and see if the pulp cavity is affected.

Treatment of a tooth fracture
Treatment depends on the extent of the damage and which part of the tooth is involved. Not all broken teeth require treatment. Ultimately, whether treatment is needed or not depends on which part of the tooth is damaged. When the pulp cavity is not affected your veterinarian may need to merely file the rough or sharp edges of the chipped tooth down or, if it is not sharp, they may recommend just monitoring the tooth.

More complicated tooth fractures involving the pulp cavity require endodontic treatment; this involves a root canal or extraction. Root canals save the tooth

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.