As humans, it’s easy for us to underestimate just how important a dog’s teeth are to them. If we chip a tooth, it’s usually a vanity problem more than anything else. We go to the dentist, get the tooth repaired or replaced, and move on with our life as if nothing happened.
However, what if your dog chips a tooth? It’s usually a much more serious health problem for them. A dog’s mouth is sort of like their hand, and the teeth are their fingers. When a dog breaks a tooth, it’s more akin to a human with a broken finger – i.e., it’s a serious injury that shouldn’t be ignored.
If your dog breaks or chips a tooth, you need to take them to a vet as soon as possible. The vet can treat your dog’s pain, which they no doubt are in, especially if the nerve has been exposed. The vet can also repair the tooth and determine whether or not your dog has any underlying problems that need to be addressed, such as an infection.
Why Broken Teeth Are Such a Problem for Dogs
Whether your dog completely breaks a tooth, or merely chips the enamel, it’s a real problem. At minimum, the afflicted tooth becomes sensitive to heat, cold, and touch. The tooth aches and your dog is in discomfort.
On the more severe end of the spectrum, if your dog experiences a break, especially one that exposes the nerve, they are at risk of infection. Bacteria accumulate in the broken area, where they are protected from the dog’s immune system – i.e, your dog’s antibodies and white blood cells cannot reach the infection. This means the infection can easily exacerbate and spread quickly throughout your dog’s mouth.
Since the dog’s immune system cannot effectively eliminate the harmful bacteria, it is essential that your dog is given antibiotics, which is why you must quickly take them to a vet.
What Causes a Dog’s Tooth to Break?
Chipped, fractured, and broken teeth in dogs is more common than you might think. Typically, the damage is the result of physical trauma. In other words, your dog’s tooth was damaged by some kind of impact.
For example, something may have struck them in the mouth – dogs often break their teeth when they are hit by a car. Dogs also chip and break their teeth when they bite down on dense, rigid objects, like bones, antlers, rocks, and chain link fences.
Symptoms of a Broken Tooth
Most commonly, when a dog breaks a tooth, it is one of their canines, which is easy to spot. However, sometimes dogs break the teeth far towards the back of their mouth, and those won’t be as noticeable to the naked eye. If your dog is exhibited any of the symptoms below, they may have a broken tooth:
- Spitting out food while they eat
- Only chewing on one side of their mouth
- Swelling of the face
- Constant drooling
- Grinding their teeth
- Not wanting to be touched on their face
- No desire to chew on treats or toys
- Excessively pawing at the face or mouth
What Can Be Done to Treat a Broken Tooth?
The treatment used for your dog’s damaged tooth depends on whether the root has been exposed or not. If your dog chipped their tooth or only broke off a small enough portion that the root is not exposed, all they need is a crown.
On the other hand, if the break is so severe that the nerve has been exposed, your dog will need a root canal or possibly an extraction. If your dog is given a root canal, a crown will be placed on the tooth after surgery. Also, as mentioned earlier, your dog will be given antibiotics to stave off a possible infection.
How to Prevent Your Dog from Breaking Their Teeth
The easiest way to prevent your dog from breaking a tooth is to simply not allow them to chew on hard objects. Instead of giving them bones or rock-hard chew toys, give them chew toys that are flexible, squishy, and malleable.
It’s also advisable to brush your dog’s teeth on a regular basis with a toothpaste made for dogs. This will ensure their teeth stay healthy and strong as they age. Never brush your dog’s teeth with toothpaste for humans. It is severely toxic to them. You can read more about how to brush your dog’s teeth here.
Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP. Fractured Teeth in Dogs. Retrieved from: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/fractured-teeth-in-dogs