What to Expect When Your Veterinarian Diagnoses Your Pet with Malocclusion
Oral health is a very important factor in a pet’s quality of life and, the more we learn, the more it becomes obvious that oral health can affect overall health. You are making a wonderful commitment to your pet’s oral care and we want you to know what to expect when you come to visit with us! Please be aware that each patient is different and the mouth is a difficult place to predict, however we will do our best to derive as close of a treatment plan as possible during our initial visit.
What is a malocclusion?
A malocclusion simply means that either your pet has a tooth (or teeth) out of place or the upper and lower jaw do not match up properly. Malocclusions can affect any breed, however some breeds, like the German shepherd are prone to have a shorter lower jaw genetically and their canine teeth hit the roof of their mouth. Imagine two spears hitting the roof of your mouth every time you chew!! Other breeds, like Boxers for example, are bred to have an intentional malocclusion with their protruding chin. However, just because a breed is meant to have a malocclusion, it does not mean there is no pain associated with the imperfectly positioned teeth or jaw.
Why does a malocclusion matter?
Unlike in people where malocclusions can have a significant effect on a person’s perception of attractiveness, the physical changes associated with malocclusions in pets often simply add to their personality. It is important to note that even if a pet appears to look normal, a painful malocclusion can be hiding behind those closed lips. Malocclusions become concerning when the imperfectly positioned teeth touch the roof of the mouth, another tooth, or gum tissue. This traumatic contact can lead to holes in the roof of the mouth, abnormal wearing of teeth, and ulcers where tissue is being damaged. The consequent chronic pain and infection can become a quality of life issue for your fourlegged family member.
Many pet owners will comment that they do not notice that their pet is feeling any pain. It is important to remember three things: 1) this condition has likely been present since the teeth first erupted and you have never known your pet any other way, 2) most pets do not show signs of oral pain and 3) many of these pets are head shy which may be a hint that their mouth is painful.
How do you correct the malocclusion?
Each malocclusion is different so unfortunately there is no “one size fits all” solution. Sometimes there is no damage from the “bad bite” and we simply enjoy the cute pup with a “snaggle tooth.” However, when there is traumatic contact, intervention must be performed. In some cases, we are able to move the teeth through orthodontic devices (yes, that means braces – it’s not as strange as you think!). In other cases, we may have to shorten teeth to prevent traumatic contact to the roof of the mouth. And although it may sound extreme, sometimes we selectively extract the offending teeth as it is much better to have no tooth than a painful tooth. With traumatic malocclusions, the goal is to create a pain-free and functional bite so that your pet can simply enjoy life.
Learn more about this disease by contacting our Dentistry service at your nearest BluePearl veterinary hospital. Here are our hospital locations.
© BluePearl Veterinary Partners 2012
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