Pet Health Articles

Orthodontics (Moving Teeth) in Dogs

Orthodontics for dogs?

Occasionally, teeth in dogs do not come out in the right location, which may create pain when they close their mouths.  When this happens, decisions on what to do come down to either moving the teeth to comfortable positions, decreasing the height of the teeth so they do not stick into the opposite jaw, or moving the teeth to comfortable and functional positions.

Wouldn’t be easier just to take out the tooth? 

Sometimes, yes – especially when a smaller single rooted tooth is involved.  When a larger tooth (or canine) is causing the oral pain it often is easier on the dog to reduce the height of the tooth and restore it or move the tooth.

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Pug’s underbite causing upper incisors to cause holes in lower jaw (left); impinged areas (right)

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Extracted upper incisor teeth to remove the Pug’s discomfort

 

How is the height reduced?

To decrease trauma from penetrated gum tissue, or from one tooth hitting another, the tooth can be cut.  Medication is placed on the cut tooth’s nerve to prevent pain, and bonding material is used to restore the shortened tooth to full function.

How is a tooth moved?

Teeth can be moved by applying constant or intermittent prolonged pressure in the direction you wish the tooth 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 takes weeks to months.

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Upper canine abnormally positioned forward interfering with lower canine (left);
Two months later, the upper canine tooth moved into a functional position (right)

Is it OK for orthodontics to be performed on show dogs?

The American Kennel Club (AKC) prohibits dogs in the show ring that have had orthodontic care for fear that the cause of the abnormal tooth location could be genetic and passed on to future generations.

Can my veterinarian provide the orthodontic care my dog needs?

Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for dogs.  Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a veterinary dental specialist (www.avdc.org) for advice or referral.

Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP
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