At times, cats may chew on objects so intensely that one of their teeth may shatter. In this discussion, our vets in Lisle will elaborate on fractured teeth in cats, the causes behind them, and ways to assist your furry companions.
How can cats break their teeth?
Fractured teeth are a common problem among cats and can be caused by several factors. External trauma, such as getting hit by a car or object or vigorous chewing on hard objects like bones, antlers, or firm chew toys, can lead to these fractures. The fang teeth and large pointed upper cheek teeth at the back of the mouth are especially vulnerable to breaking in cats.
Are broken teeth a problem for cats?
Yes, that's correct. When a tooth is infected, the interior becomes filled with infected material that can seep into the jaw through small openings at the root's tip. Even with antibiotic treatment, the body's immune system can struggle to get rid of the bacteria that have found a safe haven in the root canal. Over time, the bacteria can escape from the tooth's apex and cause the infection to spread. This can lead to dental pain when the cat chews and may even cause infections in other parts 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.
Additionally, you may inspect your cat's teeth (with their permission) to check for any chips or fractures. Cats have six different types of tooth fractures:
- Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of the crown that exposes the pulp.
- Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: A crown and root fracture that does not expose the pulp.
- Complicated crown-root fracture: A crown and root fracture 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?
In most cases, treatment is required to restore pain-free functionality for a fractured tooth. Neglecting the issue can result in tooth sensitivity and discomfort. If the nerve is exposed, the two common options are root canal therapy or extraction. However, repairing the tooth without root canal therapy is often possible if the nerve is not exposed.
Root Canal: When a tooth is X-rayed, the surrounding bone is evaluated, and the root's strength is confirmed. During a root canal, any damaged tissue inside the root canal is eliminated. Special tools are employed to clean, disinfect, and fill the root canal to prevent further bacterial infection and salvage the tooth. In general, the long-term results of root canal treatment are very good.
Vital Pulp Therapy: For cats under 18 months old, vital pulp therapy can be used on recently broken teeth. This involves removing a layer of pulp to get rid of surface microorganisms and inflamed tissue. Afterward, a medicated dressing is applied to the newly exposed pulp to encourage healing. However, teeth treated in this way may need root canal therapy at a later time.
Tooth Extraction: One alternative is to remove the damaged teeth. Nevertheless, veterinarians usually try to steer clear of extracting teeth that are cracked but otherwise in good health. Extracting large canine and molar teeth involves oral surgery, which is comparable to the extraction of impacted wisdom teeth in humans.
How can I prevent my cat from fracturing teeth?
As a responsible pet owner, it's essential to check your cat's chew toys and treats thoroughly. Make sure to remove any bones, antlers, cow hoofs, nylon chews, and pizzle sticks from your home. Get rid of any toys or treats that are hard and inflexible. You may also want to consult your veterinarian or search for products with the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC.org) seal of approval.