Your dog's teeth should appear white, bright and smooth. If you notice cracking in his enamel, it could indicate a bigger problem than mere unsightliness. While your regular veterinarian can diagnose and treat basic tooth problems, she might refer you to a veterinary dentist or periodontist to have extensive corrective -- or cosmetic -- work done.
Canine Dental Enamel
Enamel forms on canine teeth during puppyhood, reaching completion by the time the animal is 3 months old. Certain diseases suffered by a puppy during that time can cause discoloration and pitting. These ailments include canine distemper and any sort of long-term fever. Enamel hypocalcification refers to a condition where the enamel doesn't form properly or there is later damage. If the enamel comes off, the hard tissue beneath it, known as dentin, is exposed. That makes it easier for bacteria to get into the tooth, compromising his health. Overall, teeth with cracks in the enamel are weaker.
Canine Dental Hypoplasia
The enamel on your dog's teeth is relatively thin, but if he suffers from dental hypoplasia, it becomes even thinner. While enamel defects generally occur because of illnesses during puppyhood or trauma, older dogs can develop pitting and cracks. Poor nutrition and exposure to parasites or toxins can affect the teeth, as can metabolic problems and some genetic conditions. Standard poodles are especially prone to dental hypoplasia. Your vet can use ultrasonic scaling to clean and polish affected teeth and remove diseased enamel.
Cracked enamel might indicate tooth fracture. That's especially likely if your dog experiences mouth pain. If that's the case, he might have difficulty eating or paw at his face. If you know your dog has gone through any type of trauma, such as a blow to his face, check his mouth as soon as possible. Fractures can occur on the crown -- the enameled part of the tooth -- or the root below the gum line. In addition to cracking, the area around the tooth might appear inflamed or bloody. Take your pet to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet examines your dog's mouth and takes X-rays to make a diagnosis. She might pull the tooth or try to repair it. As with human dentistry, dogs can have the crown replaced, but it is a costly procedure.
If you can afford it, a veterinary dentist can restore Fido's splendid doggy grin with bonding. Your dog requires anesthesia for the procedure. Your regular vet can perform any preanesthetic blood work, sending the results to a specialist. Your dog's affected teeth are cleaned and the cracking is repaired via the use of a composite resin the same shade as his other teeth. Not only will his teeth look better, but the bonding protects the underlying tooth and reduces any sensitivity. It's possible that your veterinary dentist has payment plans available. If you can't afford it, don't fret. While there is some benefit to the teeth with bonding, the overall procedure is primarily cosmetic.
Jane Meggitt has been a writer for more than 20 years. In addition to reporting for a major newspaper chain, she has been published in "Horse News," "Suburban Classic," "Hoof Beats," "Equine Journal" and other publications. She has a Bachelor of Arts in English from New York University and an Associate of Arts from the American Academy of Dramatics Arts, New York City.