What is it?
Orthodontic problems are becoming more prevalent in our dogs and cats primarily due to selective breeding. They can occur in any breed and mixed breed dogs as well. While we can correct cosmetic (non-traumatic) malocclusions, it’s rarely performed. At VDS, we focus on correcting the various traumatic malocclusions (overbite, underbite, displaced teeth, and crowded canines) versus purely cosmetic orthodontia.*
Pet malocclusions which create trauma are exceedingly painful and can create ulcers and even fistulas (communications) between the mouth and the nose. However, pets will seldom show signs of oral pain, so we recommend therapy regardless of whether the pet seems “fine” or eating.
Common malocclusions and treatment options
Treatment options can be broadly broken down into three categories:
- Orthodontics: moving the teeth
- Extracting: removing the teeth
- Crown reduction: removing the part of the tooth causing the trauma.
Base Narrow (mesiocclused) Lower Canines
This may be caused by persistent deciduous lower canines as the adult canines erupt inside the deciduous. The deciduous tooth can cause the adult canines to deviate inwards. If there are retained deciduous canines or the patient is base narrow with its deciduous dentition, extraction of the puppy teeth( interceptive orthodontics) should be performed as soon as possible. The lingual deviation of the adult canines will usually cause palatine trauma and patient discomfort.
There are two main ways to treat this condition.
- If the malocclusion is a slight orthodontic correction (moving the teeth) with a gingival wedge or incline plane can be effective. Dr. Furman has developed a unique and very effective way of treating this condition (see the link to the abstract below).
- If the problem is severe or interlock with the upper canines, crown reduction and vital pulp therapy are usually the best choices.
Overbites are where the upper jaw is longer than the lower. This typically causes the lower canines to traumatize the upper canine or palate. If the teeth are causing oral trauma, then crown reduction and vital pulp therapy are the treatment of choice.
Underbites are considered “normal” for certain breeds (Pugs, Bulldogs). However, they may create trauma as the canines and upper incisors not being in the proper alignment. The most common result is damage to the lower gingiva +/- canine from the upper incisors. This can become quite severe and result in a fracture of the lower canine. If this occurs, the pet should be treated, regardless of the lack of clinical signs. Crown reduction and vital pulp therapy (or sealant) or extraction of the offending teeth is generally recommended.
Rostrally displaced upper canines (lance effect) can be caused by a retained deciduous upper canine or can be genetic in nature. This is mostly seen in Shetland sheepdogs. This can cause periodontal disease, as well as tooth-on-tooth trauma. This can be corrected by extraction of the offending canine or third incisor, crown reduction and vital pulp therapy, or orthodontic correction.
Crowded and/or rotated teeth are commonly seen in small breed dogs, especially brachiocephalic breeds. They can significantly increase periodontal disease in the area. Extracting them early on can improve overall oral health.