Cracked, Loose, or Discolored Teeth in Dogs

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Key takeaways

Cracked, discolored, or loose teeth are teeth that have been damaged or have changes in the appearance of the tooth enamel. These are common symptoms in adult dogs.

  • In adult dogs, changes to the teeth are caused by injuries, disease such as periodontal disease or cancer, or are superficial changes due to accumulation of material on the surface of the tooth
  • Symptoms often observed alongside broken, discolored or loose teeth include swelling, drooling, pawing at the mouth, difficulty chewing, and dropping food
  • Diagnosis is based on oral examination and X-rays
  • Treatments depend on underlying causes, and may include dental cleaning, extraction, and root canals
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A closer look: Cracked, Loose, or Discolored Teeth in Dogs

Cracked, loose, or discolored teeth are common in dogs. Adult dogs that have broken, discolored, or loose teeth, especially in cases where they have difficulty chewing, are drooling excessively, or are swollen around the mouth, require prompt veterinary attention. Broken and loose teeth cause pain and may deter dogs from eating.

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Possible causes

Risk factors

The severity of broken, discolored, or loose teeth depends on the underlying cause and which structures of the tooth have been damaged.

Teeth that are discolored due to stains on the surface are usually easily treated through dental cleaning and polishing, and full recovery is expected.

In cases where the discoloration of the tooth is due to disease occurring inside the tooth, or where teeth are loose or broken, the symptom is considered more severe. These teeth often require removal to resolve symptoms.

The severity of broken teeth depends on what structures of the tooth are affected. These include:

  • Enamel fractures
  • Crown fractures
  • Crown-root fractures
  • Root fractures

In cases where the tooth is broken to the root and the nerve is exposed, the pain is severe. Bacteria and other materials can infect the area inside the tooth. Left untreated, this infection can travel to other systems in the body, in some cases fatally.

Testing and diagnosis

Diagnosis of dental issues in dogs is based on:

  • Oral examination
  • Physical examination
  • Diagnostic imaging, particularly X-rays
  • Blood work
  • Urinalysis

In dogs, examination of the mouth is typically done under general anesthetic.

Treatment depends on the underlying cause.

In the case of discolored teeth caused by staining or the accumulation of material on the surface of the tooth, dental cleaning and polishing are required.

In the case of loose teeth, treatment usually involves the extraction of one or more teeth.

In the case of a broken tooth, the treatment depends on the severity of the damage. In some cases, a crown is required to return the tooth to its former shape and function. In more severe cases where the nerve is exposed, a root canal is required. In some cases, the tooth must be extracted.

Similar symptoms

Puppies develop loose teeth at the age of approximately 4 months in preparation for the eruption of adult teeth. This is sometimes mistaken for a symptom of a health problem.

In healthy adult dogs, there is natural variation in the color of the teeth. Dogs who have not had a change in their tooth color do not require veterinary attention.

Associated symptoms

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