I have had a spate of dogs with freshly broken teeth being referred to me over the last few weeks. It’s the only veterinary dental procedure which really needs to be treated within 24 hours.
The last one was a beautiful working Belgian Shepherd who broke three teeth at once. One dark evening, playing in the field, he ran off at full speed after his ball. Suddenly, there was a loud ‘Bang’. The ball had stopped right next to a curb stone and the poor dog had bitten hard down onto both the curb and the ball. It’s amazing how loud that ‘Crack’ is as a tooth breaks. He had broken the upper and lower canines and the upper lateral incisor on that curb stone, where he left his ball with some blood and tooth fragments.
We were able to operate on him the very next day, so we were able to save the teeth and their pulps, keeping them alive and vital. His owner had the sense not to feed him, but to bring him straight to the veterinary surgery. We anaesthetized him and examined his mouth thoroughly to confirm the extent of the damage. The three teeth had broken leaving sharp, jagged edges and exposing the sensitive pulp, the fleshy part in the middle of every tooth. This is excruciatingly painful! A human would be crying with pain, but most animals have a different attitude. After the initial shock, they seem to behave as if nothing much is wrong. People often mistakenly believe their pet is not in pain, but a working dog is rarely able to concentrate properly.
The three teeth had broken leaving sharp, jagged edges and exposing the sensitive pulp. This is excruciatingly painful!
We treated the pulp, sealed the teeth so the pulp was well protected and smoothed off those jagged edges of enamel so he wouldn’t cut his tongue and lips. This procedure is called a vital pulpotomy and is my favourite dental procedure! There is no need to rebuild the teeth to their original length. The new tips would break off very quickly and the dog can work perfectly well with shortened canines. To put on metal crowns requires several anaesthetics and is rarely justified.
Without specialist dental training, those teeth would have had to be extracted as it would be cruel to just leave them with the pulp exposed. Removing healthy canine teeth is every vet’s nightmare! The roots of dogs’ teeth are generally about twice as big as the crowns and very firmly attached. It can take about 4 months for a dog to return to full working health after such a major extraction. By doing vital pulpotomies on this dog, he was back to work in two days. That is so satisfying!