Violet’s Hidden Tooth
Violet came to see us during Dental Month to get her teeth cleaned. When her mouth was examined we noticed a space where one of her adult teeth should be. When we x-rayed the area, we found a surprise!
Puppies have deciduous or “baby” teeth, just like we do. They first appear between the ages of 3 to 6 weeks. At around 3 months of age their permanent or “adult” teeth emerge and are usually fully erupted by around 6-7 months of age.
The adult dentition of a dog is: 6 pairs of incisors, 2 pairs of canines, 8 pairs of premolars and 5 pairs of molars.
Unerupted adult teeth
Sometimes the adult teeth won’t erupt properly from the bone and the dog will appear to have a missing tooth/missing teeth. Some breeds are particularly prone to this such as: Pugs, Boxers, French Bulldogs, Shih Tzus and many other small breeds. These have abnormal alignment of their jaws which leads to crowding of the teeth. As a result there is not enough room for the affected tooth to erupt.
Why are these teeth a problem?
The problem with an unerupted tooth is that it may form an oral cyst (also known as a dentigerous cyst). The cyst is a fluid-filled sac that forms around the enamel of the tooth. Although they aren’t cancerous they do continuously grow. This can cause pain due to damaging the surrounding teeth and jaw bone. In some cases the cyst can become so large that the jaw is at risk of fracturing, due to the large amount of bone loss and weakening of remaining bone. Oral cysts can also predispose to dental and jaw infections.
What can be done?
When we find the unerupted tooth/teeth early ( as in Violet’s case) we can surgically remove the affected tooth. This will prevent it from becoming a destructive cyst and causing further problems down the track.
If you notice that your dog has a tooth or teeth missing it is best to get it checked by your vet. We will likely recommend dental x-rays to evaluate if there is an unerupted tooth. If your dog is young and hasn’t been desexed yet, we can x-ray their mouth when they have surgery. Removing an unerupted tooth before it turns into a cyst will prevent bone and tooth damage in the future.
If a cyst has formed, this requires more extensive surgery. It is essential to remove the tooth and whole cyst capsule, otherwise it is possible for it to re-grow, even if the tooth has been removed. In cases where the cyst is so large that the jaw is at risk of breaking, your dog may need specialist treatment.