More Than Just a Pain: What to Do About a Broken Tooth in a Pet

Fractured teeth are a common veterinary dental crisis, especially in dogs. So what is an animal lover to do if their pet’s  tooth breaks? Don’t worry, your partners at Rocklin Ranch Veterinary Hospital will help you be prepared should you encounter a broken tooth in a pet.

When Good Teeth Break

Pets may experience a broken tooth secondary to some type of trauma to the tooth itself. This is not limited to things like being hit by a car, but more frequently occurs when the animal bites down on a very hard object. Dogs who chew on things like deer antlers or marrow bones are very likely to fracture a tooth.

Any tooth can break, but most commonly affected are the canine teeth and the big premolar tooth. A broken tooth may have obvious exposure of the internal pulp cavity, visible as a red spot on the tooth, however sometimes fractures are less obvious.

A broken tooth in a pet is a painful occurrence no matter how apparent the fracture is. The pulp of the tooth contains sensitive nerves, and there is no question that this condition hurts.

A broken tooth in a pet may present as:

  • Resistance to handling of the mouth
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating
  • Change in chewing habits
  • Decreased appetite
  • Refusal of hard foods
  • Lethargy
  • Facial swelling

Just because a pet isn’t complaining doesn’t mean an obviously fractured tooth doesn’t hurt, though. Many of our clients report a dramatic change in overall demeanor when a broken tooth is addressed.

Your Roll in a Pet Dental Emergency

If you suspect or know that your pet has fractured a tooth, it is important to keep calm. As soon as you are aware of the problem, it is important to call us so that we can examine your pet right away. Performing a dental exam allows us to confirm the fracture and determine the extent and nature of the fracture.  

Dental radiographs are typically needed in the case of a tooth fracture as well. This provides us with information essential in formulating a plan to address the issue.

Allowing us to examine your pet a soon as possible also allows us to prescribe pain relief for your pet. Do not be tempted to give your pet over the counter or other pain medications without direction, though. Many of these options are harmful or may interfere with the medications we would like to prescribe.

Untreated, a broken tooth is not only a continual source of pain for the pet, but also a source of infection. The tooth itself as well as the surrounding bone and soft tissue structures may become infected and eventually abscess.

Treating a Broken Tooth in a Pet

Once we know what we are dealing with, we are able to formulate a treatment plan for a broken tooth in a pet. In general there are three main options:

Extraction – Removing the tooth entirely removes the source of pain and infection for the pet. Sometimes this is the best option, however there are risks involved and the loss of a functional tooth is never ideal.

Root canal – During a root canal the pulp tissue is removed from the tooth and the tooth sealed. This keeps the function of the tooth in the mouth, helps to maintain the jaw bone, and is often less painful than an extraction.

Vital pulpotomy – This option is often utilized in younger animals and has the goal of helping the tooth to continue to live. During the procedure a small amount of the nerve within the tooth is removed sterilely and then sealed.

A broken tooth in a pet is no fun for anyone, but should it happen to your four-legged family we are glad to be here to help.

At Rocklin Ranch, we have a dental technician training and working towards earning their certification in both the root canal and vital pulpotomy procedures and are looking forward to offering these services in the future.

Our expert knowledge and experience in veterinary dentistry will have your pet as good as new in no time at all.