What should I do if my dog has a broken tooth?

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What should I do if my dog has a broken tooth? - A small dog carrying a large stick as it runs down the trail.

Broken teeth are common in dogs and can range in severity. Treatment options for a fractured tooth vary depending on the severity of the break. Read on if you have ever wondered:

  • How did my dog get a tooth fracture?
  • What are the treatment options for my dog’s broken tooth?
  • Does my dog’s broken tooth need to be treated?
  • Can broken dog teeth be prevented?

While monitoring may be sufficient for a minor chipped tooth, treatments for more serious tooth fractures can include pulling the entire tooth, root canal therapy, and vital pulp therapy, among others. Not all treatment options work for every type of tooth fracture, and some therapies are much more expensive than others, especially if a dental specialist is needed.

How do dogs break teeth?

Chipped or broken teeth and other types of dental fractures are common in dogs and can occur in many ways. The most common causes of fractured teeth are:

  • Biting or chewing on hard items
  • Trauma such as car accidents
  • Disease that weakens teeth

The most common cause of tooth fractures in dogs is biting or chewing on something hard. Pet parents often give their dogs hard things to chew in an effort to prevent the plaque and tartar buildup that lead to periodontal disease. Hard chews that can fracture teeth may lead to more dental problems than they solve. Dental enamel is hard and strong, but an encounter with any hard object, whether that’s a bone, dental chew, or a car, has the potential to break teeth. Diseases such as cancer or developmental issues with the teeth can also cause weakened tooth enamel. Incisors are the most common teeth that break in dogs, but any tooth can fracture.

How does a vet diagnose and treat a dog’s fractured tooth?

It’s uncommon for a broken tooth to cause outward symptoms or health issues. Often, a broken tooth is noticed by pet parents when brushing a dog’s teeth or by a veterinarian during a routine oral examination or dental cleaning. An X-ray under anesthesia is necessary to see the extent of the damage caused by the fracture.

Treatment for broken teeth depends on the tooth and the severity of the fracture. A general-practice veterinarian is likely able to extract broken teeth and seal small chips. However, a board-certified veterinary dentist may be needed for more complex treatments such as root canals, dental caps, and vital pulp therapy.

Monitor the tooth closely

Small chips and uncomplicated crown fractures that do not reach the tooth’s pulp chamber may not need treatment. A veterinarian may advise a dog owner to monitor their dog closely for signs of pain, tooth sensitivity, or visual changes to the damaged tooth. If symptoms develop, another treatment route is needed.

Bonded restoration

Dental composite material mimics a tooth’s color and strength. It is used to seal cracks and chips to help protect the tooth’s structure. Bonded restoration is an option for uncomplicated fractures where the break does not result in pulp exposure.

Tooth extraction

Removing the damaged tooth is the most common treatment for complicated fractures that expose the tooth pulp. Extraction is also used to remove teeth that have been loosened by trauma or disease. In untreated, complicated fractures, oral bacteria can enter the pulp cavity and lead to tooth-root infections. These kinds of fractures are also painful, and extraction both relieves the pain and lessens the chance of infection. Extractions are often more affordable than other treatment options for complicated fractures.

Root canal therapy

If a tooth needs to be preserved after a dental fracture, root canal therapy may be an option. These treatments are most often used for working dogs who rely on strong teeth to do their jobs and sometimes for puppies to help preserve their new teeth. In root canal treatments, the tooth’s interior pulp is removed  and the chamber is then filled with a sealant. This option allows a dog to retain the affected teeth.

Vital pulp therapy

Similar to root canals, vital pulp therapy removes the pulp from the inside of the tooth. However, only the affected pulp is removed, leaving behind as much healthy tooth pulp as possible and keeping the tooth alive. The tooth is then sealed and capped to prevent bacteria from entering the interior of the tooth. Vital pulp therapy is not always an option for complicated fractures, especially those that are not caught within 48 hours.

Dental caps or crown restoration

Titanium dental caps can be placed over incisors or crowns to help preserve the teeth. These are most often used in working dogs. The caps are created to sit over the affected tooth, protecting it from further damage and allowing the dog to keep their tooth.

Why does a dog’s broken tooth need to be treated?

Broken teeth in dogs can lead to serious infections by exposing tooth dentin and roots to oral bacteria. In addition, exposed dental pulp is extremely sensitive and can cause oral pain, affecting a dog’s well-being. Infections usually lead to tooth root abscesses, which are even more painful and destructive to the surrounding tissue.

Can I help my dog’s tooth fracture at home?

If you notice your dog has a broken tooth at home, contact your veterinarian. “Treatment options for your dog’s broken teeth vary depending on the severity of the fracture, and range from monitoring at home to in-clinic extractions or a root canal,” explains Vetster veterinarian Dr. Jo Myers. Dental fractures that cause loose slabs on the tooth’s crown or exposed dentin require veterinary treatment because they can be very painful and often become infected. The only way to see the extent of the damage from a dental break is through dental X-rays rather than relying on a dog’s symptoms. Most dogs with broken teeth show few if any symptoms.

How do I know if my dog broke a tooth?

Dogs typically show no signs of pain or other symptoms of a dental fracture. Often, the only indication of a broken tooth is seeing the fracture while brushing your dog’s teeth or during a physical exam with a vet. If your dog does show symptoms, they can include:

Most dogs do not refuse a meal or treats even when they have dental pain, so appetite level is not a good indicator of a dental issue. If a dental fracture goes unnoticed, it may form an abscess. A tooth root abscess often causes a swollen, scabby sore on a dog’s cheek under the eye.

Can I prevent my dog from breaking teeth?

Tooth chips and fractures are common in dogs, but there are a few ways pet owners can help prevent them. Biting and chewing on hard treats and toys is the most common cause of dental fractures in dogs, especially in aggressive chewers. It’s best to avoid giving dogs antlers, bones, hooves, indestructible toys, nylon bones, and ice cubes to chew on. Offer treats and chew toys with the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal of acceptance to ensure you’re purchasing a product that’s been proven to be safe and effective. No matter what type of dental chews, toys, or treats you give your dog, always monitor your pet while they’re chewing on something hard. Any toy or chew may cause problems, ranging from an upset stomach to broken teeth or even a bowel obstruction, so it’s best to watch your dog closely. This is especially important when trying a new chew or when your dog has fractures, especially for aggressive chewers and dogs with weakened teeth. If you have questions about your dog’s dental health, you can book a virtual vet appointment with a Vetster veterinarian and discuss any oral issues your dog may have.

FAQ - What should I do if my dog has a broken tooth?

What should you do if your dog’s tooth breaks?

If your dog’s tooth breaks or you notice a dental fracture, it’s best to talk to a veterinarian right away. Dental fractures can be painful and can also lead to bacterial infections and oral abscesses. Dental X-rays allow a vet to see the extent of the damage and advise you on recommended treatments.

How much does a dog’s broken tooth cost to treat?

The cost to treat fractured teeth in dogs can range dramatically depending on the type of treatment needed. Some teeth with small chips do not need further dental care, while dental procedures performed by board-certified veterinary dentists for severe fractures, such as pulp therapy and root canals, can cost over a thousand dollars. It’s best to talk to a vet to learn what treatment options are available for your dog based on your budget and the severity of the fracture.

Is a broken tooth an emergency for dogs?

Most broken teeth in dogs are not emergencies, but are best treated quickly to avoid potential infection and dental pain. In addition, some dental treatment options are only available when the fracture is caught quickly.

Can I give my dog anything for tooth pain?

If your dog is showing signs of oral pain, talk to a veterinarian right away. Oral pain can be the result of a fractured tooth with exposed pulp, periodontal disease, jaw fractures, and other dental issues. Pain medication will only mask the issue, and many human pain medications are toxic for dogs. Only give your dog pain medication when directed to do so by a veterinarian.