What is Abnormal Dentition?
Abnormal dentition in dogs is very common, but most cases are so slight that you may never recognize it. If the abnormality is mild and does not cause any problems with eating or pain, there is no reason to treat it. However, in many cases, it is painful for your dog to eat or drink. You may think it is cute that your dog has a funny overbite or underbite, but your pet may be suffering with pain and never let you know. If you notice any kind of malformation, you should take your dog to see a veterinary professional just to be sure.
Abnormal dentition in dogs is described as a disturbance in the size, shape, amount, eruption, and placement of teeth. There are three layers in each tooth called the enamel (outer layer), dentine (middle layer), and pulp (innermost area). Enamel is the strongest substance in the body, dentine is a small layer of bone between the enamel and the dentine, and the pulp gives nourishment to the teeth. Abnormal dentition can happen at any age in all breeds, but is more common in puppies and those with flat faces, such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Bulldog, Pekingese, and Pug. Some of the signs your dog may have dentition disorder are loose teeth, extreme thirst, appetite loss, and pawing at the face. While this may not be an immediate danger to health, it can affect it, with complications such as not eating. Abnormal dentition may also bring on an infection that needs immediate care.
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Symptoms of Abnormal Dentition in Dogs
The symptoms for abnormal dentition are extremely varied because there are so many different ways this disorder can present itself. The most common symptoms are:
- Loose tooth or teeth
- Pain when eating
- Drinking more water than usual
- Discolored teeth
- Sores or ulcers on the gums
- Sores under or on tongue
- Appetite loss
- Pawing at the face
- Infection (swelling of the face and mouth, constant vocalization, high body temperature)
There are many types of abnormal dentition, but the main ones include:
Congenital Defect - Stage one (birth to four months)
- Overbite (abnormally long upper jaw) lower baby teeth come in early and get stuck behind the top teeth, stopping the development of the lower jaw
- Underbite (abnormally long lower jaw) baby teeth in the upper jaw get caught behind the lower teeth, halting the development of the upper jaw
- Extra teeth
- Incorrect placement of baby teeth
- Abnormal growth spurt of left or right side of jaw
Congenital Defect - Stage two (4-7 months of age)
- Abnormal tilting of the upper or lower teeth
- Retained baby teeth
Congenital Defect - Stage three (7-18 months of age)
- Rotated teeth (usually in dogs with flat faces, such as the Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Pekingese, Pug, and Shih Tzu)
- Tooth crowding
- Thin enamel
- Weak enamel
- Decayed teeth
Injury to jaw or face
- Broken teeth
- Fractured jaw
- Tissue damage
- Tooth loss
Causes of Abnormal Dentition in Dogs
There are many reasons for abnormal dentition, but the most common are:
- Congenital defect
- Trauma to jaw or face
- Cavities (tooth decay)
- Some of the dogs with higher susceptibility to abnormal dentition are:
- Outside dogs (spend most of their day outside)
- Brachycephalic breeds (flat faces), including Boston Terrier, Bulldog, Pekingese, Pug, and Shih Tzu
- Breeds with inherited disorders, such as the Siberian Husky and Shetland Sheepdogs
Diagnosis of Abnormal Dentition in Dogs
Your usual veterinarian may be able to do a dental examination and dental x-rays, or may send you to see a veterinary dentist, but you should always see the veterinarian first, to be sure there are no underlying medical causes for the abnormal dentition. Diagnosing abnormal dentition is pretty easily done by a professional veterinarian or canine dentist. A physical examination is done first, followed by dental x-rays and maybe CT scans or an MRI.
Treatment of Abnormal Dentition in Dogs
The treatment for abnormal dentition varies, according to what the abnormality is. In hereditary situations, the only reason to fix what is wrong is if your dog is in serious pain, if it affects eating, drinking, or breathing, and if there is risk of infection. Here are some of the treatment plans:
Removing a tooth is usually a simple procedure done while your pet is sedated. It only takes minutes and is considered to be extremely safe when done by a veterinary professional.
If the issue is severe enough to do dental surgery, this can be done at the same time and by the same veterinary professional.
The only medications needed in abnormal dentition are antibiotics (amoxicillin), pain and anti-inflammatory medicine (corticosteroids), and antibacterial ointment.
The veterinarian will want you to carefully monitor your pet’s teeth daily from now on to watch for signs of recurrence or infection.
Recovery of Abnormal Dentition in Dogs
No matter which abnormality your dog has, you need to start brushing your dog’s teeth as you would brush your own. However, you must be careful because some toothpastes contain ingredients toxic to pets. Always use a toothpaste prescribed by your veterinary caregiver. Provide a healthy diet and plenty of water, chew toys, and check your dog’s mouth daily for other problems.