Tooth Resorption in Dogs

By Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

Dental, Medical Conditions, Pet Services

What is tooth resorption?

Tooth resorption (TR) is a common oral abnormality seen in dogs. Although the premolars of the lower jaw are most commonly affected, lesions can be found on any tooth.

Tooth resorption is not typically observed with the naked eye; it’s most often observed on x-ray examination. In fact, a study of 224 dogs, presented at a university dental service for oral care, found that more than half of the dogs (53%) showed x-ray evidence of tooth resorption

In cases of internal tooth resorption, the root canal system will show an enlarged area with smooth and clearly defined margins. The recognition and treatment of external and internal tooth resorption in dogs is important for overall health and comfort.


What causes tooth resorption, where does it start and how does it progress?

The exact cause is unknown. Many studies have been performed, but the findings reveal that tooth resorption cannot be conclusively linked to diet, vaccines, or other diseases. Whatever the underlying cause, the end result is erosion of cementum and dentin that often progresses into the pulp of the affected tooth. Tooth resorption is painful once the lesion extends to the oral cavity.

How do I know if my dog has tooth resorption?

In most cases, tooth resorption does not show outward signs. Once the sensitive dentin is exposed, tooth resorption is painful and often manifests as muscular spasms or trembling of the jaw whenever the lesion is touched. Dogs with tooth resorption may show increased salivation, oral bleeding or difficulty eating.

How are tooth resorptions treated?

Tooth resorption is believed to be progressive and can present itself in many stages. Once the resorption has eroded the tooth, exposing it to the oral cavity, or if there is significant root resorption, extraction of the tooth is necessary.

Your veterinarian will outline a treatment plan that will minimize pain and suffering for your dog. Treatment options include:

  • 3Watchful waiting – when there is minimal root involvement and the resorption has not extended into the oral cavity, your veterinarian may recommend allowing some time to pass before intervening with extraction or therapy. Follow-up visits will help your veterinarian determine if the resorption is resolving on its own.
  • Extraction – when the tooth resorption has extended into the oral cavity, causing painful inflammation, your veterinarian may recommend removing the affected tooth (teeth).
  • Root canal therapy – in more severe cases, your veterinarian may recommend an advanced procedure known as root canal therapy. The inner pulp of the affected tooth is removed, the pulp canal is cleaned and filled with dental materials, and a hard layer of composite is placed on the tooth to create a hard, protective layer.

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