My Dog Lost a Tooth - Causes and Treatment
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Many dog guardians neglect a dog's dental care. There is a myth that a dog's teeth are self-regulating. This is partly because we compare canine dental hygiene to that of humans. Dogs shouldn't eat as many sugars as humans do, so they may not need the same degree of care. This does not mean dogs do not require dental hygiene maintenance from their guardians. If we neglect this part of the their health care, it can lead to teeth becoming so rotten, they will fall out of their mouths.
At AnimalWised, we will see the importance of keeping your dog's teeth clean, but we will also find out that it is not the only reason my dog lost a tooth. We look at the reasons for a dog's tooth falling out, as well as what we can do to prevent further tooth loss.
Periodontal disease is one of the most common diagnoses in first opinion veterinary care centers. Some studies estimate an incidence rate of over 80% in canines. It is an infectious disease that is produced from bacterial dental plaque. A deposit of glycoproteins occurs between the gum groove and the dental neck. These glycoproteins are colonized by saprophytic bacteria in the mouth that produce bacterial dental plaque.
As the process evolves, an alkaline pH is formed in the oral cavity that favors the deposit of certain salts. In turn, this gives rise to the formation of dental tartar. The pushing of the tartar build up and the presence of bacteria can lead to an acute inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. If left untreated, this can cause a chronic inflammation of both the gums and the periodontum (tissue surrounding teeth).
The tartar deposit causes dogs with periodontal disease to have brownish teeth which appear to be rotten. The coloration will be varying degrees of darkness, depending on the extent of the tartar buildup. Other clinical signs include pain in the oral cavity, bleeding gums and halitosis. If these problems are not resolved, it will inevitably result in the loss of the tooth.
In those cases in which dental disease is already chronically established, the most appropriate treatment should be established in each case. This treatment may include:
- Reduce causes of periodontal disease: soft food, sweet foods, etc. should be eliminated.
- Splinting of mobile teeth: consists of fixing the mobile teeth to those that are still fixed, to try to keep them as long as possible in the gum.
- Extraction of irreversible teeth: if necessary, replacement by implants.
- Other dental treatments: such as elimination of periodontal pockets, reinsertion of the epithelium, etc.
Take a look at our related article to know about the most common dental problems in dogs.
Tooth decay or cavities
Although one of the most frequent dental diseases in humans, cavities are much less prevalent in dogs. This is due to the pH of their saliva, the conical shape of their teeth and the lower amounts of sugar they have in their diet. Some dogs can still suffer from tooth decay which causes the breakdown of teeth known as cavities or caries. It is common for teeth to become brown or blackish, eventually resulting in the dog's tooth falling out.
Tooth decay occurs when microorganisms in the mouth ferment carbohydrates in the diet. This fermentation gives rise to a series of acids (lactic, acetic and propionic acid) capable of demineralizing the tooth surface and causing what carious lesions. Tooth decay extends and deepens in the tooth until it reaches the pulp and causes necrosis. It is this necrosis which makes the teeth look rotten.
The treatment of dental caries can vary depending on the extent of their development:
- In initial stages: it may be enough to perform a root canal on the affected piece. This consists of removing the neurovascular bundle present in the pulp canal of the tooth, occluding the canal and reconstructing the affected tooth.
- In advanced cases: if the tooth has not fallen out on its own, it will be necessary to extract the affected part or parts of the tooth.
Physical trauma to a dog's mouth can result in tooth loss. This trauma can arise from many causes, some of which may be in conjunction with another of the reasons for tooth loss in dogs. For example, a dog will healthy teeth can easily lose their teeth if they are in a traffic collision. However, a dog with severe tooth decay can lose a tooth due to minor trauma such as chewing on a piece of wood.
The reason a tooth falls out due to trauma is because the root is dislodged from the gum. The stronger the tooth, the harder it will be for trauma to cause tooth loss. If the pulp has already been weakened due to tooth decay, then it will not take as much force to dislodge the root from the gum.
If a dog loses a tooth due to trauma, it will not necessary happen at the time the trauma is inflicted. For example, a dog may fall and damage their tooth causing inflammation of the pulp (pulpitis). If this is not treated, the inflammation can weaken the tooth and result in it falling out. Trauma may also cause a part of a tooth to break off and then the remainder of the tooth has to be extracted.
Puppy losing teeth
It is important to note that there is a difference between a puppy's tooth falling out and an adult dog's tooth falling out. When a puppy is developing, they will undergo a process by which their milk teeth (primary dentition) will fall out to be replaced by their adult teeth (permanent dentition). Puppy teeth are smaller, sharper and of a different shape to adult teeth. Their loss is necessary, so it is a problem when a puppy's teeth do not fall out.
As they are not as strong as adult teeth, it is possible for puppy teeth to fall out due to trauma. Since a puppy's milk teeth fall out around 7 to 8 months of age, it is not likely they will develop tooth decay or periodontal disease in this time.
This does not mean a puppy is free from potential dental problems. For example, if a puppy tooth is lost due to trauma, it can affect the proper eruption of their adult teeth. For adult dogs, their tooth will not grow back if it is lost, so we need to take care of them as best as possible.
What to do when a dog loses a tooth
When a puppy loses a tooth due to normal development, we do not need to take any specific course of action. If there are any complications such as improper tooth eruption or misaligned teeth, the dog may show signs such as oral pain or bleeding gums in dogs. In this case, we will need to take the young dog to a veterinarian.
For adult dogs, teeth falling out can represent a serious problem. As they need their teeth to eat, tooth loss can harm their nutrition. In fact, the pain around dental problems can stop the dog eating altogether which will seriously threaten their well-being. For this reason, it is imperative to take the dog to a veterinarian.
When taking a dog to the vet because of tooth loss, it is important we provide as much information as possible. We need to let them know about diet, exercise and other health issues. If we know how the tooth was lost, we should let them know what happened. It is also possible the tooth it still intact or we have parts of it remaining. In these cases, we should bring the tooth with us to the veterinary center.
Not all veterinarians will be able to treat dental problems in dogs, but they will be able to make a referral when necessary. Tooth fracture can mean some of the tooth is lost, but often the root and other parts of the tooth structure can remain in the gums. When the pulp is exposed, it can be very painful and increases the risk of bacterial infection which can be very painful for the dog.
For this reason, veterinary dentists will need to remove the tooth remnants so the socket can close. This will take some time and we need to be very careful with what the dog may put in their mouth since it can introduce bacteria into the open socket.
Tooth loss prevention in dogs
Since the major cause of tooth loss in dogs is periodontal disease, it is important for us to treat this condition. There are also certain factors we should consider whether or not our dog has tooth problems. They include:
- Regular brushing: although we humans require brushing twice a day, dogs do not eat as much sugar as we do. For this reason, it may be sufficient to brush our dog's teeth 2-3 times per week. Some dogs may require more if they have periodontal disease or other tooth issues.
- Regular cleaning: we should also take the dog to a professional to have their teeth cleaned. This should happen once a year, but some dogs which are prone to tooth problems (such as certain small dog breeds) may need more visits.
- Ensure proper nutrition: a dog needs their nutritional needs met to ensure survival and well-being. However, food can also help their dental care. Eating hard kibble helps to remove plaque buildup and there are certain treats which are designed to help clean a dog's teeth. Just as important is avoiding food which can promote tooth decay and subsequent tooth loss such as avoiding sugary foods.
- Avoid tugging: if a dog has dental problems, we should be careful when playing. Common dog toys are made of rope and other materials which allow the dog to pull on them. However, this can increase the risk of teeth falling out if they are otherwise weakened.
If you are at all unsure of how to care for your dog's teeth, take them to a veterinarian. They will be able to assess the damage and provide specific information about your dog's individual needs. We also need to be very careful with senior dogs. Since tooth decay occurs over a long period of time, they are more prone to dental issues. Learn more about other common health issues in senior dogs.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Dog Lost a Tooth - Causes and Treatment, we recommend you visit our Other health problems category.
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- Whyte, A., Obon, J., Lebrero, M. E., de Torre, A., & Llorens, P. (2009). Tooth decay in the dog.