is a 3-year-old golden retriever living a happy and
carefree life according to caretakers Rod and Carla. She
spends her days in a large back yard and especially
enjoys her swimming pool. Another favorite activity is
fetching. She is especially fond of tennis balls and
sticks of various sizes. Recently, Rod and Carla noticed
that Poppy has a broken tooth.
few hours after some stick fetching, Rod noticed that
Poppy was missing part of a tooth. He described a broken
fang on the upper left side of her mouth. When comparing
with the right side, it appeared as if about a quarter
of an inch had broken off the tip of the tooth. Poppy
seems to be oblivious to the break, showing no signs of
problems. Carla and Rod question whether they need to be
concerned since Poppy does not seem to be.
tooth Poppy has broken is called a canine tooth, part of
the group called incisors. To understand the
implications of a fractured canine tooth, it is
important to first understand the structure.
canine tooth, like all of Poppy’s teeth, has three
main sections: the crown which is the area visible above
the gum line and covered by enamel, the neck which is
the area at the gum line and without enamel and the root
which is anchored in the jaw bone. The protective layer
of the tooth is the enamel covering over the crown. If
the enamel layer is compromised, the tooth can be at
risk for developing disease. This is precisely my
concern in Poppy’s case.
Poppy has fractured off about a quarter inch of the
canine tooth, the protection for the inner portion of
the tooth, the pulp, is gone. This exposes the pulp
cavity and puts the tooth in danger of developing an
abscess in its root. An abscess results from the spread
of bacteria into the pulp cavity. Once the process
starts, it is not curable with antibiotics. Something
must be done to the tooth itself.
the root cavity is intact, the tooth may be saved by
performing a root canal. With this procedure, the pulp
cavity is eliminated and replaced with a synthetic paste
and then the tooth is sealed. We can take the further
step of capping the tooth as well, if desired.
a root canal is not possible because of root fracture or
other reasons, the next available treatment is tooth
extraction. Like a root canal, this requires general
anesthetic for the patient along with pain control. Once
the tooth is removed, the body will heal the cavity left
behind and the problem is cured.
Poppy’s case, the best course of treatment begins with
a visit to her veterinarian. A diagnostic and
therapeutic plan can be outlined.
did want to address one other point brought up by Rod
and Carla. In their letter, they mentioned that Poppy
likes to fetch tennis balls. This is not something I
would recommend. The outer covering of tennis balls is
very abrasive to a dog’s teeth and over time with
chewing, this abrasive material will actually wear off
the tooth enamel, exposing the pulp cavities and risking
root abscesses. A better alternative is a rubber ball or
something similar. I use racket balls for my dog, which
is much less abrasive on the teeth and equally fun for