We have some information for our clients on causes of dental fractures in dogs. We see these quite often unfortunately so with our usual focus on prevention is better than cure we would like to discuss the usual causes.
Dental fractures are extremely painful however our furry friends are remarkably stoic about them, rarely will it stop them eating and so it isn’t uncommon for them to be first noticed in a routine examination. Often it is only after they are treated or removed and improvements in the demeanor of the patient are noticed that we realise the effect it was having on them. As well as direct pain dental fractures are a cause of tooth root abscesses which tend to present as sudden firm painful swellings on the face. Treatment is most often by extraction of the tooth which is a surgical approach as the roots of the tooth are still firmly in place. In some cases, caught early in a large tooth we may be able to offer the option of referral for root canal treatment if there is a benefit in preserving the tooth.
The most common causes of dental fractures are stones and deer antler chews. Many dogs love to chew stones and chase them, but the force of their bite is so strong that if they bite hard on a stone it can chip and fracture teeth easily. In dogs prone to chewing stones we have frequently seen multiple fractured teeth. Please as much as you possibly can stop your dog from chewing stones and definitely do not be tempted to throw any for them!
Deer antler chews are still popular and dogs do love to chew them, they have sometimes been recommended for this reason to help keep teeth clean however they are simply too hard and so when dogs are enjoying chewing them, they can bite hard enough to fracture teeth. Very often the larger upper ‘carnassial’ teeth experience fractures from deer antlers. We are making the main suppliers of pet products on the Island aware of this and encouraging them to look to safer dental products. The guidelines from veterinary dental specialists regarding chews are that if you cannot make an indent with your thumbnail then it is too hard. Aim for items that are a little softer or flake apart easily when chewing and are not likely to break off pieces that could obstruct the throat in order for your dogs to enjoy chewing safely.
Image 1 – a typical carnassial fracture, note the pointed tip of this tooth is missing and the dark areas of the pulp cavity, the molar behind is so damaged only fragments remain.
Image 2 – a ‘slab’ fracture, a large portion of the tooth has sheared off and is only held in place by its attachment to the gum.