Crowning Teeth in Dogs

By Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

Dental

October 6, 2014

What are caps? 

In human dentistry, a dental cap refers to a type of tooth repair or restoration that fully covers the part of the tooth that lies above the gum line. In veterinary dentistry these restorations are called crowns. The crown becomes the tooth’s outer surface. A “filling” only repairs a small part of the tooth usually affected by a cavity or defect.

How do I know if my dog needs a crown?

capping-teeth-dogs1Veterinary dentists often recommend crowns after root canal therapy is performed to save broken teeth (right). Crowns are also used as a second layer of defense in cases where protective enamel is not present due to wear, or congenital disease causing part of the enamel not to form (enamel hypoplasia). The crown acts as armor around the outside of the tooth for protection. It does not “strengthen” the tooth.

Which teeth are usually crowned?

While any teeth can be crowned, the most common teeth to receive crowns are the canine or front fang teeth. The secondly most common teeth crowned are the upper fourth premolar teeth used to cut food into small pieces before swallowing.

Will the crown be the same size and color as the original tooth?

capping-teeth-dogs2In situations where the crown is used to cover a broken tooth that has been repaired, the crown will cover the remaining tooth, not make the tooth longer. Having a shorter tooth will not inhibit normal chewing or biting activities. Where the crown is used to replace missing enamel, the tooth will appear normal sized.

The crown needs to withstand the rigors of daily chewing and play. Metallic crowns composed of titanium, chromium and stainless steel are most commonly used. They will be shiny and silver colored (left). Thicker tooth-colored crowns can also be made, but require removal of more of the underlying tooth.

How are crowns made?

The veterinarian will prepare the underlying tooth with a margin so the crown will fit perfectly. An impression is made of the tooth that needs the crown and the surrounding upper and lower jaws.  From the impression, a model of the mouth is made and sent to a human dental lab to fabricate the crown. Once the crown is delivered, the dog is anesthetized for crown cementation.

How long are crowns expected to last?

Under normal wear the crown should last for the dog’s life. If the dog chews on very hard objects or gets into fights, the crown can fall off or the tooth can break with the crown still attached. If the crown falls off and the underlying tooth still intact the crown can be reapplied.

Do crowns require special care?

Yes, crowns do require special care. Daily tooth brushing or wiping with specialized wipes are recommended to remove plaque and tartar. Care to avoid chewing on hard chew toys including nylon bones, antlers, horse hoofs and ice cubes are important.

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