Dental Trauma and Dental Sealants
Dental trauma is very common in our canine companions. Although the most common cause of dental trauma is chewing inappropriately hard things (bones, antlers, rocks), dogs can also injure their teeth in the course of play or fighting.
There are different severities and types of dental injury. This article focuses on fractures, but luxations and avulsions should be briefly mentioned. A luxated tooth is one that has become loose due to trauma while an avulsed tooth is one that has come out in its entirety due to trauma. In the general practice setting teeth with these injuries are treated with extraction and suturing of the gum under anesthesia after a radiographic assessment (x-ray) of the surrounding structures. Certain avulsion or luxation injuries (especially in young dogs) can be treated successfully while allowing the pet to keep the tooth if treatment is performed a short time after injury. This requires treatment through a board-certified dental specialist as advanced techniques such as root canal or splinting are required.
The most common dental injuries are fractures. Deep fractures that go all the way through the tooth and into the sensitive pulp chamber are considered complicated fractures.
These are always painful and will eventually lead to a tooth infection. In general practice these teeth can be extracted to restore comfort and prevent infection. If teeth with complicated fractures are to be saved, they should be evaluated and treated by a specialist since root canal and advanced restorative therapy are required. These root canals are often only performed for the larger and more important teeth like the canines and large chewing teeth (carnassials). Uncomplicated fractures are those where enamel and the underlying porous dentin have been broken off, but there is no entry into the pulp chamber. Exposed dentin results from uncomplicated fractures. Exposed dentin is rough, porous and sensitive. All fractured teeth cause discomfort and sensitivity. If untreated, these teeth will have rapid attachment of plaque/calculus. Because they are porous, these teeth are prone to infection. To prevent these outcomes, uncomplicated fractures should be treated with a bonded sealant. Bonded sealants will seal the porous dentin and restore a smooth surface to the tooth thereby restoring comfort and preventing infection (in most cases).
Dental injuries are not always evident during routine oral exams and are sometimes only discovered during anesthetized dental cleanings and assessments after the calculus (tartar) has been removed. When they are found, affected teeth are radiographed to confirm that they do not already have disease in the pulp cavity.
As with most diseases, prevention is the best approach, so we recommend avoiding hard treats such as bones and antlers. Please visit VOHC.org for a list of dental treats that are safe and effective.