Pets with broken or fractured teeth are a common finding for veterinarians. The large premolar and molar teeth are typically injured from chewing hard objects. The canine (fang) and incisor teeth are frequently fractured from trauma, tug-of-war, etc. For cats the canine teeth are most likely to fracture from facial trauma.
The anatomy, physiology and nervous system of our companion animals is incredibly similar to our own. Our pets do experience pain from fractured teeth. The degree of pain is related to the extent and duration of the fracture. If the pulp is exposed from an injury, such as being hit from a baseball bat or golf club, there is immediate and excruciating pain.
Many times we fail to notice our pets have fractured teeth. As the tooth becomes infected through the fracture site, it may die and become non-painful. If the infection spreads to the alveolar bone supporting the tooth, pain often returns. The bone and local soft tissues may become infected and eventually abscess. The abscess may result in an intraoral swelling (inside the mouth), or an extra-oral facial swelling (outside the mouth), and eventually become a draining tract. In our experience with patients, swollen faces can be painful. We also notice that the pain is reduced when the abscess “bursts” and drains. These draining tracts may form intra-orally or extra-orally.
Treatment of fractured teeth eliminates the pain and infection. Pet owners are consistently surprised at how their pet’s behavior dramatically improves after treatment. Many of these owners did not realize how painful their pets were until after we provided treatment.
The severity of the fracture, the tooth involved, and if the tooth is alive or not helps us decide what treatment options are best. In some cases, the best treatment option for one patient is not the best for another patient. Other factors include the patient’s age and overall health status, finances, and other variables. Treatment options typically fall into one of three categories: dental extraction, endodontic treatment, or restoration. The benefits, risks, and costs of each treatment depend on patient and owner considerations.
Every pet deserves a pain-free and functional mouth. Fractured teeth can be painful for people and pets. Just like for your mouth, there are multiple treatment options that should be considered.