The Case of the Broken Tooth
Our dental case this month highlights a problem that is all too common—broken teeth. Dogs are especially prone to breaking teeth with their penchant for chewing hard objects. But unlike people, dogs don’t complain when they break a tooth, and even the most observant owner may not realize there is a problem. Such was the case with Mattie. Mattie came in for her annual wellness exam. She was eating normally and showed no signs of mouth pain. On her physical exam, Dr. Brown found Mattie had a tooth that had broken off at the gumline.
Mattie underwent a dental cleaning under anesthesia. We were able to evaluate this tooth and even under anesthesia Mattie exhibited signs of pain when this tooth was touched. Dr. Brown numbed the area with local anesthetic, then proceeded to extract the tooth. As simple as this sounds, this extraction was actually very difficult.
When a tooth breaks, the body’s response is to do everything to “hold on” to the tooth, which generally means the tooth fuses to the bone. An oral surgery, involving incising through the gum and drilling out the bone surrounding the roots until they are finally free, is often necessary. In Mattie’s case, the tooth was so fused to the bone that the tooth actually came out in pieces. Once the entire tooth was removed (and confirmed with dental x-rays), the gum was sutured. Mattie was recovered from the anesthesia in a fear free enviroment and given medications to help with pain. Mattie made a full recovery.
It is difficult to prevent broken teeth entirely, but you can take steps to protect the teeth. This includes not giving antlers, nylabones, bones, or any super-hard chew toys. Take away rocks and other things your dog may pick up. And periodically examine your dog’s mouth to identify any broken teeth, swollen gums, masses, or other problems. And cat owners should do this too as cats often get broken teeth, usually secondary to neck lesions (these will be featured in an upcoming blog).
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