Dental Trauma: Fractured Teeth, Prevention and Treatment
As conscientious dog owners we appreciate the importance of playing with our pets and providing opportunity for exercise. Equipped with four legs but no opposable thumbs, a dog’s mouth becomes an essential tool in exploring and interacting with their environment. Whether it’s tug of war, ball catching, stick fetching or just bone chewing, the oral cavity sustains an underestimated amount of trauma as we encourage our canine friends to satisfy their need for oral exercise.
Broken Teeth Will Not Heal On Their Own
The soft tissue structures within the oral cavity have a rich blood supply which promotes rapid healing in the face of injury. In contrast, the teeth do not heal in the same fashion. The outer layer of a tooth is comprised of enamel, the hardest substance in the body. The deeper layer is made of dentin which is far more porous and softer than enamel. Injury may be the result of blunt, sharp, or shearing trauma. Trauma that results in superficial injury can cause injury to the enamel resulting in exposure of the underlying dentin or complete fracture of the tooth exposing the nerve and blood supply of the tooth root. Blunt trauma can cause injury to the nerve root and blood supply resulting in swelling of the tissue within the tooth that can lead to irreversible death of the tooth, pain and ultimately tooth loss. Both dentin and enamel are living tissue but damage that occurs to these structures is irreparable; attempts by the body to repair the damage are usually ineffective if the trauma is severe enough.
Restored Teeth Are Not The Same
Although intervention to preserve injured teeth can be performed restored teeth will never regain their lost integrity and remain at risk for further trauma and potential loss. Aside from accidental injury, most dental trauma is due to careless chewing behavior. There are a myriad of chew toys and oral exercise products available at pet supply stores many of which are unsafe. Hard plastic bones, cow hooves, shank and marrow bones are notorious for causing chips and slab fractures of the largest and most important teeth in the oral cavity.
Choosing the Right Tooth Products For Your Pet
- Any product that is marketed as a dental hygiene product should soften as the pet chews it. If the product does not become softer than the tooth itself then the tooth is at risk for fracturing.
- Products labeled with the VOHC (veterinary oral health council) seal of approval have been tested and evaluated according to a protocol established by the American Veterinary Dental College. This ensures the product has been tested and performed to specifications.
- Tooth safe products include flat rawhide chews, bully sticks, pigs’ ears, and digestible dental bones. Don’t forget that digestible products caloric value be given consideration when calculating your dog’s total day caloric intake.
- Toys used for fetching and play should be rubberized and flexible. Tennis balls cause unnecessary wearing of teeth which results in severe blunting of the tooth crowns due to dirt and sand that becomes entrapped in the felt surface. Air filled plain rubber balls are best. Flying discs should be cloth or flexible rubber and should never be made of hard plastic.
- Sticks and rocks are bad….enough said
Accidents are hard to avoid but choosing the proper chew product or toy in conjunction with a complete oral hygiene program can prevent irreversible tooth damage and loss.