Crowning Teeth in Dogs

By Tammy Hunter, DVM; Lorraine Hiscox DVM FAVD Dip. AVDC; Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

What are dental caps?

Fig. 1: Dog's broken canine tooth before a crown is added.In human dentistry, a dental cap refers to a type of tooth repair or restoration that covers the tooth. In veterinary dentistry, these restorations are called crowns. The crown becomes the tooth’s outer surface. A filling, on the other hand, 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?

Veterinary dentists often recommend crowns after root canal therapy is performed, to protect broken teeth from further trauma (see fig. 1). Crowns are also used as a second layer of defense in cases where protective enamel is not present, due to wear or congenital disease (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 tooth can be crowned, the most commonly crowned teeth are the canine or front fang teeth. The second most commonly crowned teeth 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?

Fig. 2: Dog's canine tooth with silver crown.When the crown is used to cover a broken tooth that has been repaired, the crown will cover the remaining tooth, and will 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 (see fig. 2). Thicker, tooth-colored crowns can also be made, but require removal of more of the underlying tooth.

How are crowns made?

The tooth to be crowned must be reduced in size to accommodate the thickness of the crown. The tooth will be reshaped with a margin so that the crown will fit perfectly. An impression is made of the tooth that needs the crown, along with the surrounding upper and lower teeth. From the impression, a stone model is made and sent to a human dental lab to fabricate the crown. Once your veterinarian’s office receives the crown, your dog must return to be anesthetized, so the crown can be placed on the tooth. It is secured in place with proper dental materials.

How long are crowns expected to last?

Under normal wear, the crown should last for your dog’s lifetime. If your dog chews on very hard objects or gets into fights, the crown may fall off, and it is possible that the underlying tooth can be damaged. It is also possible that, if excessive stress is placed on the crowned tooth, the crown and tooth within it will break off. If the crown falls off and the underlying tooth is still intact, the crown can be re-applied.

Do crowns require special care?

Yes, crowns require special care. It is recommended that you brush your dog’s teeth daily or use specialized wipes to remove plaque and tartar. It is important that the dog avoids chewing on hard chew toys including nylon bones, antlers, horse hoofs, and ice cubes.

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