Sophie, like a kitten again!

After being seen for advanced periodontal (gum) disease and tooth resorption at Veterinary Dental Specialties and Dental Surgery,  Sophie returned for her 2-week recheck.  As is very common for us to hear, her owner reported that she was acting like a kitten again. She is an older (approximately 15 years) cat and has some minor health issues.  Because of her age and these concerns, the clients were not recommended to pursue dental care.  Thus, Sophie had developed significant dental disease prior to presentation.  Continue reading “Sophie, like a kitten again!” »

Untreated Malocclusions Create Painful Damage for 9 Year Old Bassett Hound

Dopey, a 9 year old male Bassett Hound had undergone regular dental cleanings but his owner was told there were not any significant concerns, despite the fact that he had a class II (Overshot) bite.  One of his veterinarians early in his life noted the malocclusions and lesions on the palate but said it “probably wouldn’t cause any future issues”.  After a cleaning and assessment at the start of last month, it was suggested he might have an oral nasal fistula and he was referred to Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery.

Continue reading “Untreated Malocclusions Create Painful Damage for 9 Year Old Bassett Hound” »

Dog Tooth Broken by Antler

Are Antlers Safe Dog Chew Toys?

Lab Breaks Tooth Chewing Antler

Bennie had a fractured tooth due to chewing antlers & nylon chews.

Reindeer antlers have become a cheap and popular chew item for sale at many pet stores. Dog owners, intrigued by this “natural” item, are purchasing them thinking they will probably be equally intriguing, healthy and entertaining for their dogs. However, what people don’t realize when purchasing, is they may also be setting their dog up for a trip to the vet dentist, as happened to Bennie.

Pet Tooth Fracture Case Due to Antler Chew

Bennie, a 2 year old Labrador Retriever, came to Arizona Veterinary Dental Specialists when the owner noticed he seemed to be uncomfortable and in pain. When asking about Bennie’s chew toys and habits, the owners told us they typically offer antlers or nylon chew toys to Bennie. Upon oral examination, a complicated crown fracture of the upper fourth premolar was noted.

Dog Tooth Broken by Antler

Painful fracture of Bennie’s tooth.

A complicated crown fracture is defined as a fracture that exposes the center or pulp of the tooth. Once the pulp is exposed, the tooth is painful as the nerves are exposed. Eventually the tooth becomes infected and dies. After the tooth dies, it loses its sensitivity, but the infection will eventually spread to the root tip and this infection will cause chronic pain and can spread to the surrounding tissues. Often times these infections sadly go unrecognized until a large swelling develops under the eye.

Fortunately in this case, Bennie’s family recognized the problem early and promptly scheduled an appointment with us. Because of early diagnosis, the tooth was saved with root canal therapy and a crown was placed to preserve the function and strength of the tooth. Bennie’s long-term prognosis for keeping this important tooth is excellent, and another fracture is less likely now that his owners realize the impact of the antlers and nylon bones.

Pet Tooth Fractures and Infection

Many pet owners choose natural treats and toys for our pets such as antlers, chew hooves and hard-pressed rawhide – all with the best of intentions for their pet. However, from an oral health standpoint, pet owners must be careful not to introduce a chew toy that may cause tooth fractures resulting in dental pain and infection.

The tooth is a living structure with the pulp tissue inside. The pulp contains the nerves and vessels that extend through the dentin layer of the tooth. If the enamel and dentin is fractured off the tooth, the inside of the tooth can be exposed. The result is pain and infection in the tooth. If the pulp inside of the tooth is exposed, not only will pain result, but the tooth will require treatment. The only two treatment options are surgical extraction or root canal therapy.

Many chew toys that are intended for pets also have the potential for dental and gastrointestinal problems. Every dog use these chew toys differently and what can fracture a tooth in one dog, may not in the next. Some pets may chew appropriately; while others may break a chew toy quickly swallow it, resulting in a potential GI obstruction or chew too hard and fractured a tooth.    Watch your pet play or chew a new treat or toy. If your pet chews the toy very quickly and tries to swallow it before chewing completely, take the chew away and don’t offer it again. If the pet chews too aggressively and the tooth fractures, exposing the pulp, the tooth will require extraction (loss of function) or root canal therapy (additional expense). Ask yourself if these potential outcomes are worth the risk.

Pet Chew Toy Guidelines

The simplest guideline to follow is to consider whether you would hesitate chewing on the treat or toy yourself. If the answer is yes, it is likely to cause dental injury to your pet. The toy or treat should be soft enough to bend or have some “give” to it.

The list of excessively hard toys and chews includes:

  • antlers
  • bones
  • hard-pressed rawhides
  • hard nylon style bones
  • bully sticks.

What is an appropriate chew toy?

For dogs, pliable dental chews, and other toys with resilience will be less likely to fracture teeth. Some products are manufactured to reduce plaque and calculus and are safe for your pet. A comprehensive list of approved dental products can be found on the Veterinary Oral Health Council’s website.

How do I notice my pet has oral pain?

After a pet fractures a tooth, they do not stop eating and often will continue to play and do not appear painful. Some pets will stop playing with certain hard toys or may start chewing on the other side of the mouth. In the majority of cases, the injury will go unnoticed by the owner. This is why it’s important to inspect your pet’s mouth on a regular basis. Brushing your pet’s teeth daily will allow you to inspect your pet’s teeth at the same time. Remember, avoiding giving your pet hard treats and toys does not avoid tooth fractures completely, as many pets will pick up rocks, bite chain link fences or break teeth when colliding with another pet while playing.

Some teeth are hard to inspect, such as those in the lower jaw, far in the back of the mouth. Often times, these damaged teeth are only noted when the pet has professional dental cleaning including intra-oral dental x-rays under general anesthesia. Annual professional dental cleanings are recommended for most pets and will give an opportunity to inspect the entire mouth both above and below the gumline.

If you notice a fractured tooth, you should schedule an appointment with a veterinary dental specialist for an oral examination and treatment.

Cats Have Teeth Too!

Today we present two cases of cats, Lexi and Fellix, who were treated for broken canines at Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery. Fractured teeth are typically a dog issue, but cats do break teeth as well.  In general, the canines are the most common tooth that is broken in cats.  One major difference for cats is that their root canal extends very close to the tip of the tooth.  This means that almost any fracture will cause direct root canal (nerve) exposure.

Continue reading “Cats Have Teeth Too!” »

Oral Damage from Dog’s Electric Burn

An adorable 18-month-old mix breed puppy who chewed on an electrical cord and the electric burn resulted in dead and infected teeth and damaged gingiva and bone. He had significant electrocution burns in his mouth due to the shock.  At the time, he needed to be treated at an emergency facility due to the fact that he developed pulmonary edema (which is a common complication of electrical accidents). Continue reading “Oral Damage from Dog’s Electric Burn” »

Minnie the Cat

Treating Previously Unsuccessful Cat Jaw Fracture Repair

Minnie came to us after having had surgical care for injuries she previously sustained in a coyote attack.  She was originally treated at an outside surgical practice where the mandible (lower jaw) was fixed with a bone plate. Unfortunately, the occlusion (alignment) was off and which was causing pain and she would not eat. Another practitioner then extracted most of her teeth to alleviate the trauma and hopefully result in cessation of the clinical signs.  Sadly, both of these significantly invasive surgeries did not resolve the issue and she was still not eating. Continue reading “Treating Previously Unsuccessful Cat Jaw Fracture Repair” »

Treating Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dog with Heart Conditions & High Anesthesia Risk

Lucy, a sweet older dog, has had advanced periodontal disease for a long time.  The clients were well aware of the severity and how it was negatively affecting her health.  However, she also has a pretty significant heart problem.  This was so severe that her family vet was not willing to take a chance on putting her under anesthesia to take care of her teeth.  Sadly, the infection progressed to the point where her pet parent could tell she wasn’t feeling well. Continue reading “Treating Advanced Periodontal Disease in Dog with Heart Conditions & High Anesthesia Risk” »

The endodontic systems have now been completely cleaned and filled. This result will allow for complete healing as well as pain and infection free teeth.

All Root Canals are Not Created (or Performed) Equally.

Broken teeth are a very common problem in dogs, and in fact it has been shown that fully 10 percent of dog have a tooth with direct pulp (or nerve) exposure. Therefore, many pets are in need of treatment for this painful malady.  The only options for therapy of a fractured tooth are root canal therapy and extraction.  Veterinary Dentists generally prefer saving teeth via root canal therapy, especially strategic teeth like canines.

Root canals preserve the function of the tooth as well as avoid a painful extraction procedure.  Canine teeth have huge roots (Figure 1) and the extraction requires a large incision as well as drilling away jaw bone.  In addition, extraction has numerous potential complications including incision line breakdown and in cases of lower teeth extraction, jaw fracture.

Figure 1: Image of an extracted canine and fourth premolar from a large breed dog demonstrating the size.

Figure 1: Image of an extracted canine and fourth premolar from a large breed dog demonstrating the size.

These facts make saving these important teeth via root canal procedures the best option.  However, it is important to note that root canals must be properly performed for them to be successful.  Unfortunately, they are a not an easy procedure, and many clinics offering this service have not been properly trained.  Finally, since pets rarely show signs of oral pain, poorly performed and/or painful root canals, will not generally be appreciated by the owner.

In this case, root canals were performed on a police dog, which were rechecked at veterinary dental specialties and oral surgery.  There were no outward clinical signs of failure, however the dental radiographs revealed that the procedure was done very poorly. (Figures 2 and 3).

Recheck intraoral dental images of the left (2) and right (3) maxillary canine. In figure 2, it is obvious that the gutta percha point is way to small to fill the canal. In figure 3, the canal is only filled in the coronal half, leaving the most important apical ½ completely unfilled. In both cases (but especially the right side) there was periapical rarefaction associated with the tooth (red arrows).

Recheck intraoral dental images of the left (2) and right (3) maxillary canine. In figure 2, it is obvious that the gutta percha point is way to small to fill the canal.

In figure 3, the canal is only filled in the coronal half, leaving the most important apical ½ completely unfilled. In both cases (but especially the right side) there was periapical rarefaction associated with the tooth (red arrows).

In figure 3, the canal is only filled in the coronal half, leaving the most important apical ½ completely unfilled. In both cases (but especially the right side) there was periapical rarefaction associated with the tooth (red arrows).

Southern California Veterinary Dental Specialties & Oral Surgery had to redo the procedures, (Figures 4 and 5) which is more difficult and time consuming to perform.  Therefore, it is important to select only well-trained veterinary dentists for this procedure.

Post-op dental radiographs of the teeth after they had been properly endodontically treated.

Post-op dental radiographs of the teeth after they had been properly endodontically treated.

The endodontic systems have now been completely cleaned and filled. This result will allow for complete healing as well as pain and infection free teeth.

The endodontic systems have now been completely cleaned and filled. This result will allow for complete healing as well as pain and infection free teeth.

If your pet has a broken tooth, it is important to ensure that they are being treated by the very best board certified veterinary dentists. Find a board certified veterinary dentist.

Older Pet

Is My Pet Too Old for Anesthesia?

Owners of aging dogs and cats are often hesitant about allowing their pet to be put under anesthesia for a dental cleaning or other procedure. There is a fear that the pet is too old and not able to handle the anesthesia, but this is really not the case at all. As with humans, old age isn’t a disease and when using the proper anesthetic dosages and protocols, anesthesia is quite safe for an older pet — just as it’s safe for an older person. Continue reading “Is My Pet Too Old for Anesthesia?” »

Fractured Jaw in French Bulldog Puppy

This is Isabelle, a three-month-old French Bulldog puppy who suffered a broken jaw after being bit by a housemate. She was in significant oral pain and had moderate bleeding upon presentation.  She was referred to Veterinary Dental Specialties and Oral Surgery.  She was diagnosed the fracture and  scheduled for immediate surgery.

Continue reading “Fractured Jaw in French Bulldog Puppy” »