What exactly is malocclusion in dogs?
To begin you should know about the dental structure of a dog. Your adult dog has 42 permanent teeth which fall into the following categories:
- Incisors are the teeth located between the upper and lower jaws. They are used for grasping food and they help keep the tongue in the mouth.
- Canine teeth are located on the sides of the incisors and are used to grasp food and other objects. The lower canines help keep the tongue in the mouth.
- Premolars are located behind the canines in both the upper and lower jaws and shear or cut food.
- Molars are behind the premolars at the back of the mouth. They are used for grinding food to prepare it for swallowing.
Malocclusion in dogs happens when the teeth are misaligned. This condition can lead to uncomfortable, or even painful symptoms for your pup. This can be diagnosed through a routine dental examination with your vet.
Underbites, Overbites and Scissor Bites in Dogs: The Types of Malocclusion
When it comes to malocclusions in dogs there are two main types. These are skeletal and dental. Dental malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower jaw lengths sit naturally but the teeth themselves are out of alignment. A skeletal malocclusion results when the jaw does not sit normally causing the misalignment of the teeth.
What are the different types of skeletal malocclusion?
Mandibular Distoclusion or Class 2 Malocclusion (MAL2): Also known as an overbite, overjet, overshot, or mandibular brachygnathism. This condition happens when the upper jaw is longer than the bottom jaw. When the mouth is closed, the lower jaw teeth do not occlude with their upper jaw counterparts. When compared to their counterparts in the lower jaws, the upper premolars are too far away from the nose.
Mandibular Mesioclusion or Class 3 Malocclusion (MAL3): Also known as an underbite, undershot, reverse scissor bite, or mandibular prognathism. This is a condition in which the lower jaw is too long in relation to the upper jaw and the lower teeth protrude in front of the corresponding upper teeth. If the jaw length difference is small, the upper and lower incisor teeth may meet edge to edge, resulting in an even or level bite.
Maxillomandibular Asymmetry: Upper and lower jaw asymmetry can manifest itself in a variety of ways, including rostrocaudal asymmetry (upper and/or lower), side-to-side asymmetry (upper and/or lower), and open bite (one or both sides). Side-to-side asymmetry is caused by a lack of centering of the upper and lower jaws over each other, whereas rostrocaudal asymmetry is caused by a length disparity between the right and left sides. An abnormal (increased) space between the upper and lower jaws causes an open bite.
What are the different types of dental malocclusion?
Rostral & Caudal Crossbites: Rosrtal crossbite occurs when the canine and premolar teeth on both sides of the mouth are aligned but one or more lower incisors are in front of the upper incisors when the mouth is closed. Caudal crossbite occurs when one or more lower cheek teeth are closer to the cheek than the opposing upper cheek teeth when the mouth is closed.
Linguoverted Mandibular Canines: This malocclusion is a condition in which the lower canine tooth is angled inward, resulting in traumatic contact between the linguoverted canine and the roof of the mouth. It can be treated using a variety of methods, including tooth movement, crown reduction, restoration, or extraction.
Mesioverted Maxillary Canines: This dental malocclusion can be inherited (as in Shelties) or acquired as a result of persistent deciduous teeth.
The Treatment Options For Malocclusion in Dogs
If your dog can use their teeth and jaw without issues then your vet may not need to recommend any treatment. If the malocclusion is caused by genetics then you may want to consider having your dog fixed in order to prevent having puppies with similar issues.
However, for dogs who are in pain, the first option is to remove deciduous teeth, which are notoriously linked to oral discomfort and diseases in dogs over the age of 10 months. To avoid long-term problems, veterinarians will advise pet owners to pay close attention to the pattern of their dog's teeth during the puppy stage.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.