Traumatic Tooth Fracture in Dogs

Traumatic tooth fracture refers to damage to the enamel, dentin (the tissue that holds the tooth in place in the mouth) or the cement.  This damage can be to the crown, which is the part of the tooth above the gum line, or the root, which is the part of the tooth below the gum line.

There are many causes of traumatic tooth fracture.  Dog fights are a common cause of tooth problems.  Poor nutrition or chewing on something too hard, such as rocks, also contribute to tooth problems.  Blunt force trauma to the face or a minor car accident are also possibilities.  Getting hit by a car can cause traumatic tooth injuries, as well.

The most common symptom of a tooth problem is inflammation and infection.  An abscess may form around the damaged tooth.  The crown may be missing, there may be blood or tissue in the mouth, and the dog will likely stop eating.  He may even stop drinking if he hurts badly enough.  A dog with a traumatic tooth injury is in constant pain and is miserable.

To diagnosis a tooth fracture, the veterinarian will take an x-ray of the dog’s mouth.  He will also do a thorough oral exam to see where the problem is and how serious it is.  The dog may have to be sedated during the exam if it is in a lot of pain so he does not bite the veterinarian.

The treatment will depend on the extent of the damage.  Crowns and other dental work may be able to save the tooth.  However, if the tooth is too badly damaged for that, extraction may be recommended.  The dog will then have stitches in his mouth to help it heal.  These will have to be removed in a week to ten days.  Extractions can cause other teeth to move around in the mouth to fill up the empty space in the jaw.

The dog should be restricted in activity until the mouth heals and should be fed a diet of soft or moist food only until the mouth is completely healed.

It is important to continue with regular tooth brushing and mouth care for your dog.  Any tooth problem or gum irritation should be discovered during the brushing.  There are special brushes and toothpastes for dogs.  Do not use people brushes as they are too hard.  People toothpaste will upset the dog’s stomach as it is not designed to be swallowed.  Doggy toothpaste is designed to be swallowed, and often comes in liver flavor so the dog enjoys having his teeth brushed.

Prevention includes not letting your dog fight with other animals.  It also involves not letting your dog chew on hard objects, such as rocks, that can traumatize the teeth.  Dogs that are allowed to roam free are at a higher risk of traumatic tooth injury than are dogs that are confined in a safe environment.