Gracie is a sweet and loving dog that was adopted about one year ago. She is a Maltese/Terrier mix that has been a joyful addition to her family. At Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital, during one of Gracie’s routine health exams it was noted that she had the start of periodontal disease. A dental cleaning done under general anesthesia with full mouth x-rays was recommended.
Just as with people, dental care is extremely important for our pets. Routine dental care can extend our pet’s life 1-2 years and prevents painful dental infections. It is recommended that our pets have full mouth x-rays at routine intervals as some early dental lesions and fractured tooth roots will not be found without them.
In Gracie’s case, we did not expect any of her teeth would need to be removed based on the oral exam that was performed during her health exam. Once Gracie was under anesthesia it was noted that some teeth were missing.
After doing x-rays of all of Gracie’s teeth, it was found that she had multiple fractured teeth. All of the fractures were below the gum line so there was no way of knowing she had broken teeth without x-rays. Some teeth had the crown completely broken off with the root buried under the gums. One tooth looked completely normal, while both roots were fractured.
Figure 1:Red Circle- fracture through root of a mandibular incisor. Red Square: Retained Root of a mandibular incisor.
Figure 2: Red Arrow- Fractured crown of a premolar. This was almost completely buried under the gum line.
Figure 3: Red Circle- Fracture through the roots of a premolar. The fracture was hidden under the gum line.
None of these would have been found if it was not for doing x-rays. Gracie’s fractured teeth were all surgically removed and her mouth healed up very well.
It is not unusual to find pets with fractured teeth. One of the reasons for this is that their muscles responsible for chewing are extremely strong. In fact they are so strong that if a dog is chewing a hard bone then they will fracture their teeth. For this reason dogs should not be allowed to chew on deer antlers, cow femurs or any other extremely hard chew. They will fracture their teeth on these.
Since Gracie was adopted, it is unknown how she fractured her teeth. The important thing is that she was able to receive the treatment she needed. Now her mouth is pain free!
It is very easy to overlook dental disease in our pets. While fractured teeth and infected teeth are very painful, our pets do not express their pain in ways that are obvious to us. In almost all cases they will continue to eat normally. This is why it is important that your pet have oral health checks each year. Your veterinarian will do this as part of their routine health exam. Many times with painful teeth, it is only after they are removed that owners notice their pets are more energetic and playing with their toys again.
At home dental care is extremely important in order to keep your pets teeth healthy. There are a variety of ways and products to do this.
The best way is brushing your pet’s teeth daily. There are toothbrushes that fit over your finger and specially made pet tooth paste in different flavors. This prevents the bacteria from establishing and causing dental infections.
Below is a link that gives you tips to make your pet enjoy getting their teeth brushed!
Other ways to help keep your pet’s teeth healthy are with dental foods. There are multiple prescription dental diets that will help scrape the tartar off and prevent calculus buildup. These are complete diets and will help to keep your pet and their teeth healthy. There are also many different dental treats, water additives and oral rinses.
The Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) evaluates different oral health products. Approved products will have their stamp on them. Below is a link to the VOHC page of approved products. This is the best way to ensure you are using a quality dental product.
If you have any concerns about your pet’s teeth or oral health, please discuss this with your veterinarian.