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This is an advanced form of an infected tooth, and is most commonly seen on the upper jaw just below the eye. This condition is usually caused by a fractured tooth that has been infected by the oral bacteria and the tooth eventually dies. The bacteria will travel through the infected root canal system and gain access to the jaw through the bottom of the roots. Once the infection reaches the jaw, it also has access to the entire body through the blood vessels.
Broken (fractured) teeth are a very common occurrence in dogs and cats. Teeth can break due to trauma (hit by a car, ball, or rock) or due to chewing on hard objects. Any tooth can break, however some teeth are more commonly fractured than others, such as the canine (fang) teeth in the dog and the cat, and the upper fourth premolar (large tooth on the upper jaw in the back of the mouth) in dogs.
True bacterial cavities (called caries) are fairly rare in animal patients, but they do occur in dogs. The breed that is most often affected is the German shepherd dog, although any breed can develop cavities. The most common area of the mouth for cavities to occur is on the flat, top surface of the molar teeth, but they can occur anywhere.
Any tooth that is not the normal color is almost certainly dead and infected. This means that teeth which are purple, yellow, grey, or brown are very likely to be a significant problem for your pet. In fact, it is estimated that 93% of discolored teeth are dead and infected, which means that can be painful and/or infected. Unfortunately dogs and cats almost never show obvious signs of oral pain, therefore they often go untreated.
Occasionally a tooth will be pulled out of its socket without fracturing the root. This is typically seen in canine (fang) teeth due to dogfights or other trauma. The tooth may either be partially or completely removed from the socket. This is an emergency situation, i.e the faster the treatment is begun the better the prognosis. With prompt therapy, the prognosis for long term health of the tooth is excellent.
If you notice your pet is missing a tooth, it can be a serious problem. It is exceedingly common for teeth to be absent in our pets. In some cases, the tooth is truly missing, while in others the tooth/root is actually present under the gumline. These teeth are usually a problem. Do not assume a tooth is truly absent or that it was previously extracted just because it is not seen above the gumline. Dental x-rays must be taken of the area to confirm true absence of the tooth.
Orthodontic (bite) problems
Orthodontic problems are not unusual in dogs, but are fairly uncommon in cats. A malocclusion means that the jaws do not align properly. This problem may be purely cosmetic or can cause trauma to the lips, gums, palate, or teeth. By far, the most common cause of malocclusions is hereditary. Additional genetic causes include tongue size as well as lip and cheek tension.
Retained deciduous (puppy) teeth
A deciduous tooth is considered retained as soon as the permanent (adult) tooth erupts. The permanent tooth does not need to be fully erupted for the deciduous to be considered retained.
While this is typically thought of as a feline condition, we are seeing more and more of this in our canine patients as well. This problem is very common in cats, with studies suggesting that up to 60% of cats over 6 years of age are affected. Feline tooth resorption is second only to periodontal disease in the overall incidence of oral disease.
Excessive wear of teeth can actually cause problems, and there are many reasons this can occur in dogs and cats. Some of the most common causes of worn teeth are chewing on tennis balls and other toys as well as itching/chewing as a result of skin allergies.