How can cats break their teeth?
Cats often experience fractured teeth, which can occur due to various factors. External trauma, such as being struck by a car or object, or engaging in vigorous chewing on rigid items like antlers, bones, or firm chew toys, can lead to these fractures. Among cats, the canine (fang) teeth and the large, pointed upper cheek teeth located towards the back of the mouth are particularly prone to breaking.
Are broken teeth a problem for cats?
Indeed, this is the case. The interior of the tooth becomes filled with infected material, gradually seeping into the jaw through small openings at the root's tip. As the bacteria find a sanctuary within the root canal, the body's immune system, despite antibiotic treatment, struggles to eradicate the infection. With time, the bacteria can escape from the tooth's apex, leading to the spread of infection. This can result in localized dental pain whenever the cat chews and may even cause infections in other areas of the body.
What are the signs of a fractured tooth?
Signs to look for include:
- Chewing on one side
- Dropping food from the mouth when eating
- Grinding of teeth
- Pawing at the mouth
- Facial swelling
- Lymph node enlargement
- Shying away when the face is petted
- Refusing to eat hard food
If you notice any of these, a trip to the vet for a dental examination might be necessary.
Further, you can examine your cat's teeth (if they allow you) to see if there is a chip or fracture. There are six classifications of tooth fractures in cats:
- Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
- Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: A fracture of the crown and root that does not expose the pulp.
- Complicated crown-root fracture: A fracture of the crown and root that exposes the pulp.
- Root fracture: A fracture involving the root of the tooth.
- Enamel fracture: A fracture with loss of crown substance confined to the enamel.
- Uncomplicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that does not expose the pulp.
What are some treatment options for fixing broken teeth?
Treatment is typically necessary for most fractured teeth to restore pain-free functionality. Neglecting the issue will lead to tooth sensitivity and discomfort. When the nerve is exposed, two common options exist: root canal therapy or extraction. However, if the nerve remains unexposed, it is often possible to repair the tooth without requiring root canal therapy.
Root Canal: An X-ray of the tooth assesses the surrounding bone and validates the root's integrity. The unhealthy tissue inside the root canal is removed during a root canal. To prevent further bacterial infection and save the tooth, instruments are used to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal. The long-term outcomes of root canal therapy are generally excellent.
Vital Pulp Therapy: In younger cats (under 18 months), vital pulp therapy may be used on freshly broken teeth. To eliminate surface microorganisms and inflammatory tissue, a layer of pulp is removed. To promote healing, a medicated dressing is applied to the newly exposed pulp. Teeth treated with this method may require root canal therapy in the future.
Tooth Extraction: The other option is to extract damaged teeth. However, most veterinarians attempt to avoid extracting cracked but otherwise healthy teeth. The removal of huge canine and chewing teeth requires oral surgery, similar to the removal of impacted wisdom teeth in human patients.
How can I prevent my cat from fracturing teeth?
Please inspect your cat's chew toys and snacks carefully. Remove any bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from your home. Discard any chew toys or treats that are rigid and difficult to bend. Consider consulting your veterinarian or looking for products that bear the seal of approval from the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org).