Orthodontic problems aren’t limited to humans, dogs and other pets are also afflicted by it. Unlike humans, dogs can’t go to a veterinary orthodontist on their own. And the stakes for dogs with orthodontic issues are much higher than that for humans. Cosmetic relief or improving smile aesthetics doesn’t come into the picture for dogs. The primary goal of orthodontic treatment for dogs is to make their bite healthy and comfortable.
All You Need to Know About Braces for Dogs
The primary problem with fitting dogs with dental braces is that not every dog can undergo the procedure. Firstly, they need to be anesthetized at the time of fitting the braces. So, it’s crucial that the dog is healthy enough or else the anesthetics will have an adverse effect on them. Secondly, the dog needs to be compliant enough to be able to get through the entire process involving poking and prodding. Not every dog can be kept calm during this process, which makes it difficult to fit braces. Thirdly, probably most importantly, as a pet owner you need to be disciplined and responsible with cleaning your pet’s mouth regularly and maintaining the braces, during the entire length of the orthodontic treatment.
A veterinary orthodontist will first conducted an oral examination to determine if there are any bite irregularities. If there are, the next step will be to determine if the bite is functional and comfortable or if it’s causing the dog serious problems with potential graver consequences in the near future. Severe bite irregularities can cause a number of serious problems for dogs, including tooth fracture due to repeated striking between teeth in the upper jaw and lower jaw or teeth striking soft tissue, tooth and periodontal ligament inflammation and more. Severe inflammation can lead to periodontal disease, which in turn can result is anachoresis, i.e., spread of bacteria or infections from the affected area through the bloodstream to vital organs such as kidneys, liver and heart.
Why Do Dogs Need Braces?
Puppies have 28-30 baby teeth known as deciduous teeth, which are fully formed by the time they are 8 weeks old. These teeth are then replaced by 42 adult teeth by the time they are 6 months old. Irrespective of the size, shape and breed of dog, the number of permanent adult teeth in dogs is 42. This can lead to a number of conditions for which dental braces become imperative.
Linguoversion is probably the most common dental issue among dogs that can be treated with dental braces. It’s essentially a condition where the teeth are pushed inwards or towards the tongue instead of down. It’s particularly serious if the lower teeth are affected by linguoversion. The dog will face major discomfort due to the teeth rubbing against the roof of the mouth and in the particularly severe cases, the roof of the mouth can get punctured, resulting in chronic sinus infections.
Overbite is another reason why dental braces for dogs are so important. It’s particularly important if the mandible (lower jaw) is shorter than the maxilla (upper jaw) and if the teeth in the maxilla point outwards instead of down. Some dogs also face problems when their baby teeth don’t fall out in time. This leads to overcrowding of the teeth later on, when the adult teeth start growing. It can cause serious infections.
However, it’s very important to understand that, unlike humans, dogs have a wide variety of facial shapes. The basic structure of the jaw is essentially the same among all humans, irrespective of the superficial differences. That’s not the case with dogs. While the majority of dog breeds have long muzzles (also known as snout), there are several breeds such as pugs and boxers who have a smashed in or flat muzzle. Even among the dog breeds that have long muzzles, the shape and size of it varies from really long and thin to shorter and wider. Hence, veterinarian orthodontists need to evaluate whether it’s practical to fit braces or even possible, even if the dog in question does have orthodontic issues that need attention.
You can find a list of board-certified veterinary dentists on the American Veterinary Dental College site.
When Do Dogs Need Braces?
Orthodontic issues in dogs are typically detected around the time their adult teeth start developing, around the age of 4-6 months. Pet owners can spot conditions like overbite and linguoversion with the naked eye. Veterinary orthodontists will be able to advise you on the best course of action. In case of minor problems, braces might not be necessary. Rubber ball therapy, in which a special ball is placed in the dog’s mouth and the teeth are repositioned as the dog chews on the ball, is used in such minor cases. Tooth extraction or crown filing are also used to resolve issues, if possible, before dental braces come into the picture. Note that tooth extraction in dogs can be a particularly painful experience. As mentioned earlier, the general health of the dog will have a say on whether dental braces are the right option or not, because of the involvement of anesthesia. It’s necessary because the process of fitting dental braces includes cementing buttons inside the mouth to hold the braces and apply the required pressure. The length of orthodontic treatment for dogs is much shorter than that for humans. It’s typically 2-3 months at most.
Cost of Braces for Dogs
The cost depends on the condition of the dog’s teeth as well as the number of rounds of anesthesia required to fit the braces. Typically, the cost is between $1,000 and $4,000. During the length of the treatment, you will have to take your dog to the orthodontists for check ups once or twice every week.
It needs to be reiterated, once again, that dental braces for dogs are not meant for cosmetic or aesthetic improvements. Veterinary orthodontists aren’t supposed to even entertain such requests from pet owners. Just because a dog has crooked teeth doesn’t mean dental braces should be fitted. Are the crooked teeth functional and comfortable or are they causing problems to the dog that could have serious consequences later on? If there’s discomfort and negative consequences involved, only then dental braces for dogs are relevant.