There are many possible causes of dental disease in dogs, including plaque accumulation, dental trauma, genetics, cavities, and cancers. In recent years, research into dog tooth root resorption – a process in which part or parts of the tooth is destroyed by failed physiological processes – as a cause of dental disease has increased.
Unfortunately, research has not yet produced solid answers as to the cause or effective treatment for tooth root resorption in dogs. Even so, owners should be aware of the condition so they can alert their veterinarian to any abnormalities they may observe in their dog’s mouth.
ANATOMY OF A TOOTH PROBLEM
A healthy canine consists of the crown – the part of the tooth above the gumline – and the root, which is below the gumline and makes up most of the tooth.
The center of the tooth root is the pulp chamber; This is living tissue that is filled with nerve endings and blood vessels. The next layer that moves outward from the tooth core is dentin, a hard, bone-like material that protects the pulp. Outside the dentin, cement is a thin coating that attaches the tooth to the jawbone.
The enamel, the white, visible part of the tooth, protects the crown. It is the hardest substance in the body. Once filed, no more email is produced. Any destruction of the tooth enamel is permanent.
Tooth root resorption occurs when part or parts of the tooth are destroyed. Any area of the tooth can be affected, from dentin to tooth enamel.
Odontoclasts are cells that are critical to the resorption of tooth tissue. They are usually associated with a collapse of the baby tooth roots, allowing those teeth to fall out and give way to permanent teeth. For reasons that are not understood, sometimes the supporting “network” of proteins that protect the teeth is compromised, and odontoclasts can then break down the tooth and the surrounding tissue (called the periodontium) without restriction.
The onset of this breakdown appears as a lesion that looks like a pit or hole in the tooth. These lesions often appear at the junction where the enamel meets the cement. Light pink tissue from the gums (called the gingiva) above the gumline may cover the hole. In this way the body tries to heal the defect. If the dog is anesthetized for a teeth cleaning, the lesion will become apparent once the tooth is scraped clean. However, many of the lesions are below the gumline and are only visible through dental x-rays.
There are three basic types of resorptive lesions: physiological, inflammatory and non-inflammatory.
Physiological resorption is normal and occurs as the body prepares to shed the milk teeth (milk teeth) as the adult teeth develop and arise.
Inflammatory and non-inflammatory resorptive lesions are abnormal. The triggers for this type of tooth destruction are unknown. One study found a possible correlation between age and breed, with older large breed dogs being predisposed.
What symptoms might your dog be showing? This makes resorption lesions confusing! You may not experience any symptoms at all. Resorptive lesions are common when your dog has x-rays with his mouth full before a teeth cleaning. (This is one reason why X-rays are such an important part of cleaning your teeth.) When you have symptoms are They may include drooling, difficulty chewing, bad breath, mouth pain, and dropping food while chewing.
If a resorptive lesion affects the tooth crown, a hole may be visible. It is also possible to see pink fleshy tissue that appears to be growing on the tooth. This is gum tissue trying to cover the defect in the crown. It is a hallmark of a resorptive lesion.
DO YOU HAVE TO DO ALL ABOUT THIS?
Treatment for this condition remains controversial. In some cases, your veterinarian suggests monitoring with dental x-rays only every six months. However, if discomfort or dysfunction is observed, extraction of the affected tooth is indicated.
In the past, veterinary dentists tried to fill these resorptive lesions just as a dentist would fill a cavity in a human. However, this proved largely unsuccessful. Usually the tooth loss would continue to progress. The filling would fall out and the tooth would eventually have to be extracted. If the dog appears to be in discomfort and / or the loss of the tooth is certain, the tooth should simply be extracted.
Unfortunately, no way is known to prevent tooth resorption as the causes are unknown. However, dogs that have had tooth resorption are more prone to more. Therefore, paying attention to overall dental health is vital throughout your dog’s life. If your veterinarian suspects resorptive lesions, referral to a veterinary dentist may be the best course of action. Resorptive lesions in dogs are an area of limited knowledge and current research, so speaking with a specialist may be your best bet.
Catherine Ashe graduated from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in 2008. After an intensive emergency internship for small animals, she practiced ER medicine for nine years. She works as an assistant veterinarian in Asheville, North Carolina and loves the general practice of medicine.