It is not uncommon for dogs to break teeth chewing on hard objects, and if your dog has received a sharp blow to the muzzle---either through an accident or in rough play---he may have chipped or broken teeth. Unlike humans, dogs and other animals have a natural instinct to hide their pain. If your dog is hurting, chances are you won't know it, but what you don't know could hurt him and end up costing you a bundle in veterinary bills.
Even if your dog shows no outward signs of trauma or pain from a chipped tooth, it is likely that harmful bacteria are proliferating inside the exposed pulp. After a time, the bacteria can cause the pulp tissue to die. It can then travel to the gum and bone inside the jaw, destroying the root tip and spreading the infection through the bloodstream and into the organs, including the liver, kidney and heart.
When a root abscess is left untreated, it may eventually break through the dog's skin in the area below the eye. This condition must be treated with antibiotics until the infection is defeated, and it is likely to return unless the infected tooth is removed.
If your dog's broken tooth is otherwise healthy, your veterinarian may choose to perform a root canal, in which the infected part of the pulp is removed and the canals inside the gum are medicated to prevent further infection. Root canal is the most common dental procedure for a broken tooth in a dog. If your dog's tooth has only recently been broken and is not very infected or if it is not yet fully mature, your veterinary dentist may opt to perform a vital pulpotomy, where only the top portion of the tooth is removed and the root is kept alive. With this procedure, the tooth is allowed to mature, and if needed, a full root canal can be performed in the future. Tooth extraction should always be considered only as a last resort, as it is painful for the dog, whose tooth roots are twice as long as his visible teeth. The procedure is surgical and will leave the dog unable to chew properly.
If your dog's broken tooth is dealt with promptly by a veterinary professional, she is likely to recover from any infection and regain the use of the tooth. If you cannot afford to treat the broken tooth properly and opt for an extraction, you may still need to medicate your dog with antibiotics for a time, and she may be left unable to eat anything but soft foods, which may eventually lead to further dental problems.
Help your dog avoid chipped or broken teeth by discouraging foraging for rocks, sticks and other objects outside. Feed him fresh or packaged dog foods made by a reputable company, and be sure to put fresh meats through the grinder at least three times before feeding it to your pet. Trim meats off the bone before giving them to your dog, and allow him to chew on rawhide or synthetic chew sticks in place of beef bones. If you regularly freeze rawhide sticks to sterilise them, be sure to allow them to thaw for a few minutes before giving them to your dog.
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