Q: It looks like my dog, Henry, broke the tip off one of his fangs. Do I need to do anything about this?
A: One in four dogs breaks a tooth during his or her lifetime. Almost half these fractures expose the sensitive pulp canal. If Henry broke only the tip of his fang, or canine tooth, he may be fine. If the fracture exposed the pulp canal, he’s in pain and needs treatment.
The only way to know for sure is to have your veterinarian anesthetize Henry, probe the tooth and take dental radiographs (x-rays).
If the fracture exposed the pulp canal, bacteria can enter and infect the sensitive nerve and blood vessels, causing pain and destroying the bone surrounding the tip of the tooth’s root. Extraction or a root canal will effectively treat such a tooth.
The dental radiographs also will show whether the crowns or roots of any other teeth are damaged, so all problems can be treated at one time.
Since dogs rarely let anyone know when their teeth hurt, you should make an appointment with Henry’s veterinarian immediately.
Lee Pickett, V.M.D. practices companion animal medicine. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.