Orthodontic problems are often quite painful, even though pets rarely any outward signs of an issue. However, it is very common for pet patients to be suffering from the trauma crated by the teeth hitting into the sensitive gums or palate. This traumatic damage can become quite significant, creating local infection. In addition, they can kill the teeth in the area due to the chronic percussion. Finally, in some cases the teeth can penetrate into the nasal cavity possibly leading to a severe nasal infection.
When a traumatic orthodontic issue occurs, there are several options. Ideally, orthodontic movement (braces) are performed on the teeth to move them into a natural/non-painful position. Extraction of the offending teeth is another possibility, but when the lower canines are involved, this requires a very large surgery. Finally, lowering the affected teeth and performing vital pulp therapy may be the best treatment.
In this case, the lower jaw was the correct length but and narrower than normal on the right side, which caused the lower canine to strike the palate on the inside of the upper lateral incisor . When the patient was placed under anesthesia, the trauma to the palate and teeth was evident. Orthodontic movement of this tooth is quite easy as it only requires a tilting movement.
The best treatment for this situation is an incline plane. This can be made in hospital (“chair-side”) out of dental acrylic. However, in our practice we prefer to use cast metal appliances created by a professional laboratory. These are more precise as well as stronger than the acrylic type. To do this we take impressions and create stone models. These are sent to the orthodontics laboratory where the appliance is fabricated. The cast metal appliance is then cemented onto the upper canines.
The pet supplies its own orthodontic force by normal chewing action, slowly tilting the tooth to the correct position. Once in the correct position the appliance is removed and the upper jaw acts as a natural retainer.
This procedure keeps the teeth intact and functional throughout the patient’s life. This presentation is an excellent candidate for veterinary orthodontics.