Broken Tooth? There are Alternatives to Dental Extractions

Did you know that dogs and cats can have root canal procedures, crowns, cavity restorations, and bone grafting procedures just like people can? These procedures are performed by veterinary dental specialists around the country and can provide an alternative to extracting teeth. In today’s article, we are going to focus on root canal and crown therapy.


Root canal procedures in dogs are performed for treatment of broken teeth. Chewing on inappropriately hard objects such as elk antlers, marrow bones, or nylon bones causes risk of fracture to the largest chewing teeth in the mouth, the upper 4th premolar and lower 1st molar. The canine teeth are also commonly fractured, but this is more likely to result from trauma or destructive/cage chewing behaviors.



Because dogs and cats rarely show signs of oral pain, the diagnosis of a fractured tooth is often made at a routine visit to your veterinarian. If a tooth has fractured and the pulp is exposed, treatment is required. Treatment for a broken tooth involves root canal therapy or extraction.



Root canal therapy involves removal of the pulp of the tooth, disinfection of the pulp space, and filling with materials that will prevent the tooth from becoming diseased in the future. Recovery from these procedures tend to be fairly quick and our patients can get back to playing and eating regular food right after the procedure. A crown can be placed over a tooth that has had root canal therapy for additional protection against re-fracture of the tooth or displacement of the restoration. This is an important consideration if chewing on hard objects or destructive behavior cannot be eliminated. For instance, we always recommend crown therapy for working police dogs due to the fact that they do bite work for a living. Crowns are an additional expense and involve an additional anesthetic episode, but they are a useful tool to preserve teeth.



Lastly, root canal therapy isn’t for everyone. Here are some reasons that root canal therapy might not be the right choice for your furry friend.

  • If the fracture involves the root of the tooth.
  • If your pet is older with other systemic diseases that make anesthesia less desirable.
  • If the tooth is severely infected (swelling, abscess, facial wound).
  • If cost is a concern (root canal therapy is more expensive than extraction and requires a specialist).
  • If you are opposed to repeat anesthetic episodes (root canal therapy requires yearly check-ups and dental x-rays).



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Dr. Mary Buelow

Dr. Mary Buelow is a Board-Certified Veterinary Dentist practicing in Leesburg, VA. She lives with her husband, two rescue dogs (Frankie and Noodle) and two rescue cats (Kitten and Squash), for a total of 135 teeth. We won't say who's missing what...

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