How to Adjust Abnormally Positioned Canine Teeth

Four Methods:Using a Ball or ToyUsing an Inclined PlaneUsing Crown ReductionUnderstanding Canine Teeth

Malocclusions are the abnormal orientation of a tooth or teeth. They often cause discomfort and a weak bite due to abnormal contact with other teeth or gums. It causes dogs difficulty to close the mouth properly, potentially causing eating and swallowing issues as well. There are several treatments you may choose from and the right one for you and your dog will vary depending on the severity of his condition. To learn more, start with Step 1 below.

Method 1
Using a Ball or Toy

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    Buy a hard rubber ball or Kong toy. If the jaw and teeth issues your pup is dealing with are minimal, this conservative, readily available option may suffice. A hard rubber ball or Kong toy of appropriate size used during active play can act as a passive orthodontic device to help align the mandibular canine teeth.
    • Kong toys and balls are available at most pet shops and online. However, since there are so many options, it's wise to talk to your vet – or at least a pet store employee – about what the best option is for a pup with poorly aligned teeth.
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    Let your dog play with the toy for a minimum of 15 minutes three times a day. Present it as a special toy he gets to play with if he's well-behaved or use the toy in accompaniment with treats to encourage use. Don't interrupt him at the 45 minute mark – let him play with it for as long as he wants for a better likelihood that it'll be effective.
    • The technique in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showed correction in 28 of 38 cases in young dogs of various breeds and partial improvement in three additional dogs. In all the cases where the technique failed, there was not just a tooth in the wrong position, but rather a skeletal malocclusion.[1]
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    Monitor his progress to make sure the toy is effective. Again, this is most minimally invasive option when it comes to realigning canine teeth. For dogs with moderate to severe alignment issues, it will likely not be enough. After a week or two, take a look at his teeth. Do you notice any differences? If not, you may need to consider other options.
    • Take a picture of your dog's teeth periodically. This will make it much easier to detect small changes. It will also be easier to document for your vet should you need to bring your dog in for an assessment.

Method 2
Using an Inclined Plane

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    Try an orthodontic device known as an "inclined plane." The second most conservative treatment option is a passive orthodontic device called an inclined plane, usually placed at 7 to 9 months of age. This is most commonly made with a composite material that can be made to allow for a “sliding board” effect. The device engages the lower canine teeth when the mouth is nearly closed, resulting in slow, lateral movement of the canine teeth, guiding the tooth to its normal space.
    • The most common type of material used to create the device is the same chemical-cured composite used for temporary crowns in humans. The material exits the mixing tip as a liquid but hardens to a solid mass within a few minutes.
    • The teeth are etched prior to placement, which allows the composite to adhere to the teeth. The composite is placed on the etched and dried teeth to allow it to stick, and the material is built up over the misaligned teeth.[2] Once the material sets, it is shaped with burs to allow for the ideal angle to form and, in some cases, for the teeth to separate.
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    Keep the inclined plane clean. This device requires good home care and thorough brushing to keep the device clean. In addition, it may become dislodged if dogs are allowed to chew on hard items while the device is in place. Monitor what your dog chews on and brush his teeth regularly to make sure this device stays effective.
    • Talk to your doctor about an appropriate teeth brushing regimen for your dog. You also don't want to dislodge the plane yourself, so it's a good idea to get advice on how to brush your dog's teeth as well.
    • If you do notice that the plane is dislodged, take your pup to the vet to get it replaced. How severely the plane is dislodged will determine the invasiveness of the procedure.
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    Use the device as a retainer if desired. The device may be kept in the mouth as a retainer once the teeth have moved to their desired position, or a retainer may be placed between the teeth for at least a few months to prevent the teeth drifting back to their original position. Talk to your vet about this being an option.
    • Continue monitoring your dog's teeth to see if this is necessary. Take regular photos to make slight changes more visible and comparisons easier to make.

Method 3
Using Crown Reduction

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    Turn to crown reduction if necessary. The third option for treatment of poorly positioned permanent canine teeth is crown reduction. Since removal of even a small portion of the crown will result in pulp (roots of teeth and gums) exposure, this procedure is done with an aseptic technique, and once the crown is reduced to approximately the height of the adjacent mandibular third incisor tooth, a portion of the coronal pulp is removed to create space for the placement of medicament and filling material.
    • After this part of the process, a glass ionomer intermediate restorative layer is placed, followed by a layer of composite to provide a seal that prevents bacteria from getting into the exposed area.
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    Get dental radiographs done twice a year. Though this procedure can be done in just one session and just one administering of anesthesia, monitoring with dental radiographs is recommended at six months post operatively and every 12 months thereafter. This step is vital to making sure your dog's teeth are on the right track and that the crown hasn't suffered any damage.
    • Make an appointment with your vet immediately after surgery. This way, in 6 months or a year, you won't forget when to get that check up or even forget to make it in the first place.
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    Know that this option is fairly successful. Also called vital pulp therapy, this procedure has a high rate of success when pulp exposure occurs aseptically and the duration of pulp exposure is confined to minutes rather than days or hours.
    • The material placed directly on the pulp may be either calcium hydroxide or mineral trioxide aggregate, both of which are safe for dogs over the long-term.

Method 4
Understanding Canine Teeth

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    Know what a normal canine mouth looks like. It is necessary to understand the normal number and position of dogs' teeth to evaluate any malocclusions or misalignments. Here are the basics:
    • Dogs commonly have 42 teeth, with 20 in the upper jaw and 22 in the lower jaw. The lower canine teeth should fit in between the space (diastema) of the third maxillary incisor and canine tooth when the mouth is normally closed.
    • In addition, the upper molar teeth should overlap with the lower four molar teeth normally. Any abnormality in the above described position will be referred to as malocclusion.
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    Learn what causes poor alignment. Abnormalities in the orientation of teeth frequently occur during the transition from baby to permanent teeth – also known as the "eruption period." It is important to monitor the eruption period to avoid malocclusions in your dog. There are two frequent causes that are responsible for the development of abnormally positioned teeth:
    • 1) An abnormal angle or direction of a mandibular canine tooth but still fitted in a normal position.
    • 2) Deformity and malformation in the skeleton including a shorter, wider or narrower than normal mandible (lower jaw).
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    Start monitoring your dog's teeth early on, especially if your dog is a toy breed. Identifying abnormal teeth positioning is best done at an early age so treatment can be planned and monitored appropriately. An occlusal evaluation should be part of every puppy's visit to the vet.
    • The most common form of malocclusion in dog is persistent baby teeth exert force in abnormal directions and reposition the permanent teeth. It frequently happens in mandibular canine teeth with a high prevalence in toy breeds like Yorkshires, toy poodles and Chihuahuas.
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    Do not breed a dog with malocclusions. Some malocclusions are very painful and termed as "traumatic" malocclusions. Unfortunately, malocclusions – traumatic or otherwise – do tend to be genetic. Because of this, the American Veterinary and Dental College recommends neutering these animals to avoid passing on this painful attribute.
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    If absolutely necessary, get the teeth extracted. The final treatment option is extraction of the mandibular canine teeth that are causing palatal trauma. This is perhaps the least desirable option because the mandibular canine teeth make up such a large part of the jaw, and as a result extraction of both mandibular canine teeth will likely lead to functional and aesthetic changes.
    • This process is poorly documented and only recommended in extreme conditions. The mandibular canine tooth is the largest tooth in the dog's mouth and the attachment root is strong, too. Extraction of the canine tooth can cause functional, long-term changes.
    • Moreover, it is not recommended in an aesthetic point of view. The mandibular canine tooth consists of roots above 60-70% of the total length of the tooth. Because of this, the surgical procedure to extract the canine tooth is often discouraged.

Sources and Citations

  1. Gorrel, C., Andersson, S., & Verhaert, L. (2013). Veterinary Dentistry for the General Practitioner II: Veterinary Dentistry for the General Practitioner. Elsevier Health Sciences.
  2. Animal Dentistry & Oral Surgery Specialists LLC
  • Holmstrom, S. E., Fitch, P. F., & Eisner, E. R. (2004). Veterinary dental techniques for the small animal practitioner. Elsevier Health Sciences.

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Categories: Canine Health