Dental problems are not too uncommon in the patients we see here at the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic. We’ve written about periodontal disease in the past, and how brushing your pet’s teeth (if you’re allowed!) is helpful in maintaining a healthy mouth. Today we’ll talk about overcrowding in the mouth, why overcrowding happens, and the consequences of dental overcrowding.
It is not unusual in the dog world for the smaller and toy breed puppies to not lose their baby teeth when they should. Call them baby teeth, call them primary teeth, or call them deciduous teeth, they ought to fall out at appropriate times to make room for the adult teeth that are coming behind them. (Thankfully for cats, primary teeth/dental problems are not too common! Cats have other dental issues that deserve our attention.)
It may not seem like a big deal when these puppies hold on to their primary teeth, but when they don’t fall out, they cause overcrowding in the mouth. This has the potential to lead to dental wearing. When teeth rub together in ways they shouldn’t, the enamel of the teeth can chip or wear. This is irreversible, and not healthy for the teeth. The rough surface left behind is more susceptible to tartar build-up and therefore periodontal disease.
At-risk puppies, those puppies that are of the toy breed or small breed variety, should be examined at around 5 months of age to be sure their mouth is healthy. Most puppies are seen at 4 months of age because this is the age of the last puppy vaccine booster. But between this last vaccine visit and the time of their spay/neuter procedure, damaging changes could take place in their mouths if a watchful eye is not on them. When overcrowding looks like it may impact the health of the mouth, we ought to intervene by extracting the baby teeth to create sufficient room for the adult teeth.
Sometimes overcrowding isn’t necessarily due to the primary teeth, but due to either the size of the mouth relative to the size of the teeth or the orientation of the teeth relative to each other. Dog’s teeth are not proportional to the size of their bodies. One would expect a Chihuahua’s teeth (for example) to be quite small and a Mastiff’s teeth to be quite large. Mastiff’s teeth are quite large, but a Chihuahua’s teeth are not proportionally smaller, and this presents a problem. Sometimes, too, teeth emerge at odd angles. People get braces. Dogs? Orthodontics are available to a certain extent, but this is not commonly pursued. Here are three examples of what we’re talking about.
What these patients really need is to have the problem tooth/teeth extracted as early on in the process as possible with the goal of preventing future troubles. In the case of abnormal wear, as seen in the middle photo above, removing the offending incisor as soon as wear was noticed would have saved the dog a lot of pain/discomfort and saved the canine tooth from permanent damage.
When overcrowding is observed in young dogs, removing the problem tooth, such as the premolar that is rotated 90 degrees in the photo above on the right, can save the dog from developing periodontal disease of that tooth and the adjacent premolars as time goes by. Is the goal simply to extract teeth? No. Is the goal to promote the best long-term quality of life for the patient? Yes!
Both doctors at the Cuyahoga Falls Veterinary Clinic have extensive experience in the world of dental health and care for dogs and cats. If you have questions about your pet’s mouth (or questions about anything related to your pet!), give us a call at 330-929-3223 to set up a time to meet with us.