Are there really orthodontic treatments for dogs?
Occasionally, teeth in dogs do not erupt in an appropriate position within the jaw (known as malocclusion) As a result, teeth may be in traumatic contact (causing pain) with other teeth or there may be traumatic contact with the oral soft tissues also causing pain. When this happens, decisions on what to do come down to 1) moving the teeth to create a more comfortable bite, 2) decreasing the height of the teeth so that they do not contact the oral soft tissues in a painful fashion, or 3) moving the teeth to a more comfortable and functional position.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to take out the tooth?
Sometimes yes, especially when a smaller single rooted tooth is involved. When a larger tooth (such as a canine) is causing the oral pain it is most often easier on the dog to reduce the height of the tooth and restore it or move the tooth. It is often prudent to try to keep large structurally important teeth.
Top: Upper incisors are causing traumatic contact with the lower jaw soft tissues due to underbite.
Middle: Trauma to lower soft tissues.
Bottom: Extracted upper incisor teeth relieve discomfort.
How is the height reduced?
The height is reduced by a crown amputation with restoration. Crown amputation with restoration is a procedure whereby the crown height is reduced exposing the inner pulp cavity which contains the neve, lymphatics, and blood vessels. A layered dressing (filling) is placed on the exposed internal tissues of the tooth and the tooth is sealed to prevent bacteria from gaining access. The goal is to remove the traumatic contact, while maintaining the tooth’s vitality. This procedure is also referred to as vital pulp therapy with a restoration.
How are teeth moved?
Teeth can be moved by applying constant or intermittently sustained pressure in the direction in which a tooth needs to move. To move teeth, veterinarians can attach orthodontic buttons and elastics to the teeth or create an inclined orthodontic appliance. As in people, the process may take weeks to months.
Above: Upper canine malpositioned, interfering with lower canine.
Below: Two months later, the upper canine tooth moved into a functional position.
Can show dogs have orthodontics performed?
The American Kennel Club (AKC) prohibits dogs that have had orthodontic work done to be shown. The concern is that dogs that are successful in the showring are often used as breeding dogs who may, if they have a hereditary malocclusion, pass that along to their offspring. Preventing showing of these dogs is an effort to protect the public and also ensure that only the best of the breed is truly represented in the showring.
Can my veterinarian provide the orthodontic care my dog needs?
Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for dogs. However, orthodontic procedures are often complex requiring multiple visits and rechecks and your veterinarian may recommend referral to a board-certified veterinary dentist (avdc.org) to guide you in the process.