There are many reasons why your dog might need oral surgery. Oral tumors or repair of jaw fractures are two conditions that may require surgery. Your veterinarian may refer your dog to a board-certified dentist, surgeon, or oncologist. Prior to your dog’s surgery, blood tests will be performed in order to prepare an anesthetic protocol suitable for you dog. Post-surgery, anti-inflammatory medications may be administered, as well as narcotic medications. Most dogs recover with minimal discomfort and will need to eat soft food until healing is complete.
There are many causes of oral swellings, including local trauma, infection, fluid accumulation and tumors. If you find an oral swelling in your dog’s mouth, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some oral swellings can be painful to touch, so to protect yourself from being bitten, do not touch the swelling. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests such as intraoral radiographs, blood tests, and tissue sampling. Treatment and prognosis will depend on the cause.
Oral fibrosarcomas are the third most common oral tumor in dogs. These tumors arise from the connective tissues of the oral cavity. They are locally aggressive with a low tendency to metastasize. Staging is recommended for oral tumors, and CT imaging is advised for planning treatment, whether surgical or radiation. These tumors may also affect the nasal cavity. Treatment involves surgical removal of the tumorous tissue. Radiation therapy may also be recommended.
Oral melanomas are the most common malignant oral tumor in dogs. Melanomas usually present as a mass in the mouth and may be melanotic (pigmented) or amelanotic (non-pigmented). These tumors are both locally invasive and have a high tendency to metastasize to other organs. Full staging including CT scanning is recommended to determine extent of disease. Surgery is the treatment of choice especially in early cases. When surgical removal is not possible, radiation therapy may be pursued given oral melanoma’s relatively good response to radiation therapy.
Like humans, benign and malignant tumors occur in dogs’ mouths. Peripheral odontogenic fibromas (POF) are the most common benign tumors while oral melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas, and fibrosarcomas are the most prevalent malignant tumors in dogs. Diagnosis may be performed via fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Spread to mandibular lymph nodes does occur. Fine needle aspiration of the lymph nodes is recommended when malignant tumors are suspected. Tumor staging including laboratory testing as well as CT imaging helps to plan therapy.
Occasionally, teeth in dogs do not erupt in the right location resulting in pain and poor function. The options include orthodontic appliances to move the teeth, extraction, or crown amputation with restoration. Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for dogs. Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dental specialist (avdc.org) for advice or referral.
As in humans, dogs have two sets of teeth. Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth and adult cats have 42 permanent teeth. By the time a puppy reaches 6 to 7 months of age, he will have all of his adult teeth. Ideally, the baby tooth associated with that permanent tooth falls out. Sometimes, the permanent tooth erupts alongside the baby tooth, known as a persistent tooth. A persistent tooth occurs when the tooth root of a deciduous tooth is either incompletely resorbed or it did not resorb at all, and as a result does not fall out. This causes the permanent tooth to erupt at an abnormal angle or in an abnormal position. The end result is often crowding or malposition of the tooth (or teeth), causing a malocclusion. Early extraction in these cases will usually allow the adult teeth to move into their proper positions and prevent further malocclusion problems. If you notice any persistent teeth, take your dog to your family veterinarian as soon as possible for an oral examination.
Plaque forms on teeth shortly after eating and within 24 hours begins to harden, eventually turning into tartar. Tartar serves as a place for bacteria to grow, leading to gingivitis. As gingivitis worsens, periodontal disease develops which includes inflammation, pain, and tooth loss. Prevention of plaque and tartar build-up is key; use VOHC accepted food and/or water additives, wipe or brush your dog’s teeth daily, and have your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings.
Dental X-rays in dogs are similar to those taken in humans. In many cases, intraoral dental X-rays are necessary to identify and treat dental problems in your dog. Nearly two-thirds of each tooth is located under the gum line. Your dog will need to be anesthetized in order to accurately place the X-ray sensor and perform a thorough oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedures.
Tooth resorption in dogs is a painful condition with no known cause. It is categorized into two types with subcategories of each: internal or external. Tooth resorption is usually only visible on intraoral radiographs. Although the premolars of the lower jaw are most commonly affected, lesions can be found affecting any tooth. Dogs with tooth resorption may show increased salivation, oral bleeding, or difficulty eating, as well as muscular spasms or trembling of the jaw whenever the lesion is touched. Treatment will be determined based on how far the resorption has extended and may include watchful waiting or extraction.