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Tooth Fractures in Dogs and Cats

Accidents happen! Unfortunately, a dog or cat can break a tooth quite easily. If this happens to your pet, it’s important to have a vet assess the tooth as soon as possible. Here’s why!

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What happens when a tooth is broken?

The outer portion of the tooth is the white enamel we all brush daily and try to keep clean. Underneath, there is a layer of dentin and then the pulp chamber, which contains the tooth root.

When fractures occur, the affected portion of the tooth’s surface becomes rough, and this can cause a faster buildup of tartar than the normally smooth surface of the enamel.

For example, a “slab fracture” is when a piece of the side of the tooth chips off. But more concerning than that is if the fracture extends into the pulp cavity, causing nerve pain and exposing the tooth root to further infection and potentially a tooth root abscess or other complications.

Causes of Tooth Fractures in Dogs and Cats

  • Chewing on hard objects, bones, antlers, rocks (mostly dogs)
  • Accidentally hitting their face on a hard surface when jumping down from a height (mostly cats)
  • Dental disease that weakens the tooth and compromises its stability and integrity, predisposing it to being fractured more easily

Clinical Signs of Broken Teeth in Pets

  • No signs if mild, may not even be noticed by owners
  • Pain - most commonly exhibited as the following symptoms:
    • Dropping food
    • Not chewing properly
    • Avoiding chewing on one side of the mouth
    • Not wanting to eat hard food, chew on hard toys/bones
    • Not wanting to eat at all
  • Excessive drooling
  • Blood around the mouth or bloody saliva
  • Bad breath
  • Swelling under eye or around jaw (may indicate a tooth root abscess)

How are Broken Teeth Diagnosed in Dogs and Cats?

  • Oral exam by a vet (much more thorough under general anesthesia)
  • Dental x-rays (performed under general anesthesia)
  • Skull x-rays (may be helpful, but not as diagnostic as dental x-rays)

Treatment of Fractured Teeth in Pets

  • Extraction (under general anesthesia):
    • If the fracture extends into the pulp cavity, the tooth should be removed to prevent pain, infection, abscesses, and other complications.
    • Board-certified veterinary dentists can fill a tooth by performing a root canal or similar procedure, instead of removing it, just like in human dentistry.
  • Pain medication (such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory pain medication)
  • Antibiotics
  • Soft food

How to Prevent Broken Teeth in Dogs and Cats

Brushing your pets’ teeth can help prevent tartar and calculus buildup, dental disease, fractures of unhealthy teeth, and tooth root abscesses. Veterinary dentists advise brushing your pets’ teeth twice daily. For helpful tips on brushing your pet's teeth, check out these articles:

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth: Step-by-Step Instructions

Brushing Your Dog's Teeth: Step-by-Step Instructions

Dental prophylaxis (scaling and polishing of the teeth) - helps prevent dental disease just as it does in humans. Often performed every few years in many pets.

Do not give your dog hard bones or antlers to chew on. These do NOTHING to help the teeth remain clean and can cause fractures, pain, and even obstruction and other gastrointestinal complications if large chunks are swallowed.

For information on veterinary-approved dental products and treats visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council website.

Read more:

Everything You Need to Know About Your Cat’s Dental Health

Everything You Need to Know About Your Dog’s Dental Health

Have more questions about your pet’s dental health?

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FirstVet is the #1 online video veterinary service.

FirstVet offers video calls with experienced veterinarians for just $35. You can get a consultation within minutes by downloading the FirstVet app for free from the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. Over 500,000 users trust FirstVet to care for their animals.

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