Classification of Tooth Fractures in Pets

Tooth fractures are common in dogs and cats. Pets fight, they are hit by cars, and they run into things as they play…just to name a few of the many causes. In simple terms, fractures are classified as complicated (the pulp is exposed) or uncomplicated (the pulp is not exposed). For a more complete discussion see > nomenclature > fractures. Complicated fractures are the ones we worry about because they are painful and will get infected 100% of the time. However, that said, just because there is no pulpal exposure does not mean that the pulp is healthy. It could still have been damaged or be in danger of dying.  All seeming uncomplicated fractures should be thoroughly assessed and then followed by regular radiographs (x-rays) over a period of a year or two to ensure the health of the tooth. In addition, most uncomplicated fractures result in porous dentin being exposed. We will commonly use dentin bonding agents to seal the dentinal tubules and thus prevent tooth sensitivity or retrograde infection of the pulp from intraoral bacteria.

All images courtesy of the American Veterinary Dental College

The importance of a thorough oral exam

A fracture of an incisor is easy to miss because small fractures are not always obvious. However, whenever the fracture is deep enough to expose the pulp, there are only 2 treatments available, root canal therapy and extraction

A fractured incisor from the front would be easy to


Another view of the fractured incisor showing necrotic pulp

Notice the root which has been shortened by resorption secondary to infection

This tooth was extracted because it is a small and relatively unimportant tooth and the root resorption would have made root canal therapy more difficult