Lovely Lyra came in to see us as her owner was concerned about a lump that had appeared on the right-hand side of her face just under her eye. She was otherwise quite cheerful and had been eating and drinking normally, but both her owner and Vet Amy were concerned about what might be going on as the swelling had appeared suddenly from nowhere. When Amy examined more closely in Lyra’s mouth, a possible cause was evident: she had fractured her upper carnassial tooth on that side and seemed a bit sore when we tried to look at it.
Dogs and cats have four carnassial teeth, which are some of the large cheek teeth near the back of the mouth. They are excellent for shearing meat which means some other meat-eating animals have these too. The teeth can become fractured when dogs bite down onto hard items (sometimes as hard as metal, or stones!). If the dog is lucky then sometimes the fracture only involves the hard outer enamel of the tooth, in which case it will not usually cause a problem. In Lyra’s case the fracture was more complicated and involved the pulp cavity as well (the centre of the tooth which contains blood vessels and nerves – also known as the root canal) and so it looked possible that this fractured crown had led to infection in and around the root. Just like in humans this will sometimes be visible on the face as a swelling below the eye or along the jawline.
Lyra was started on antibiotics and painkillers initially to treat the infection, but Amy scheduled for her to come in a few days later for some dental x-rays. Once she was under the general anaesthetic Amy was able to have a much better look and the x-rays confirmed that there was infection in the bone around the roots of the broken tooth. The best option was to remove the problem tooth while she was sleeping so that it would not cause her any more issues. Upper carnassial teeth have three roots anchoring them in the skull and which meant a surgical extraction was performed allowing the removal of each of the roots intact. Once the gum had been stitched, and the rest of her teeth had been given a clean, she was ready to wake up and go home. Once the gum has healed she should be feeling fighting fit, and hopefully has learnt her lesson about trying to bite through things that are more hard-wearing than her teeth!