Texas Veterinary Dental Center

Golden Retriever

Canine & Feline Endodontic Disease

There are many causes of endodontic disease, however in pet animal patients traumatic tooth fracture is the most common. A recent study reported that 10% of dogs have teeth with pulp exposure.

A fractured tooth with pulp exposure is a painful experience for the animal; however, the pet will rarely exhibit oral pain. Since pain significantly increases when the pet chews they may stop playing with their toys, but most pets will not stop eating. Unfortunately, only very rarely will pets show discomfort. These pets are being affected locally as well as systemically, and ignoring the problem is not a viable option. After endodontic treatment has been performed on a fractured tooth, many clients report that their pet is more active and acts “years younger”.

Bacteria in the dog or cat’s mouth will contaminate the fractured tooth with pulp exposure and it will become infected. The bacteria will then use the root canal to gain entrance into the alveolar bone. The infection in the tooth will cause a tooth abscess which results in bone destruction and eventual tooth loss if untreated. Consequently, the pulp that contains nerve tissue dies and the acute pain subsides while daily chronic pain begins.

Another potentially serious sequela to infection is the potential for other serious systemic diseases in the pet. Animal dental infections have been linked to valvular endocarditis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), diabetes, strokes, liver and kidney disease.

Discolored teeth may also be a sign of endodontic disease. The tissue or pulp inside the tooth contains blood vessels, nerves and lymphatics which nourish and keep the tooth vital or “alive”. On occasion, a tooth will “die” and become discolored. This is most common in canine and incisor teeth. The cause of tooth death is usually unknown; however trauma is the most likely cause. The non-vital tooth may become infected from bacteria in the bloodstream and will act as a bacterial reservoir just like a broken tooth. A recent study reported that 93% of discolored teeth are non-vital and in need of therapy.

Endodontic disease usually causes an abscess of the root tips that can result in facial or jaw swelling. The abscess may drain through the skin or inside the mouth. These abscesses are most commonly found in the large carnassal (chewing) teeth.

Veterinary root canal therapy is necessary to resolve chronic infections. Antibiotics may control the acute abscess, but the infection will remain and invariably the abscess will reoccur or become chronic if the offending tooth is not treated. Resolution of the abscess can be achieved utilizing endodontic treatment or surgical extraction