Conditions commonly diagnosed and treated by veterinary dental specialists include:
Enamel hypoplasia: Areas of defective enamel formation, appearing as brown, sunken spots or bands on one or more teeth, which may result from certain viral infections, or trauma to the developing tooth.
Endodontic disease: When a tooth fractures and the pulp (blood vessels and nerves) inside the tooth is exposed, bacteria get into the pulp and the pulp dies. If not treated, severe inflammation occurs in the bone around the tooth roots, often leading to swelling or drainage of pus below the eye or under the chin. An intact tooth which is discolored purple or grey is also likely to have dead pulp, and should be treated.
Tooth resorption: A painful, destructive process which occurs in 30-50% of pet cats and a small percentage of dogs.
Unlike cavities in humans, which are caused by acid-producing bacteria, tooth resorption results from the activity of cells normally present to destroy roots of deciduous (baby) teeth. For an unknown reason, the cells become active again in a mature animal, and begin to destroy the permanent teeth. If a filling is placed, the cells continue to eat away at the tooth under the filling, and the tooth is eventually lost despite the attempted treatment. Tooth resorption is painful, so even though the tooth will eventually go away, it is better to extract affected teeth rather than allow the disease process to continue causing discomfort.
Jaw fractures: Usually caused by trauma, some fractures of the jaw bones may be repaired non-surgically by the use of intra-oral splints, like the one below. Other fractures may require surgical intervention.
Malocclusion: Indicating a failure of the jaws and teeth to interdigitate properly, malocclusion includes conditions such as “overbite” and “underbite”. Although usually hereditary, sometimes malocclusions are the result of trauma to the skull of a developing puppy or kitten. This dog’s lower right canine tooth is occluding onto the palate, causing trauma to the soft tissues (arrow).
Oral tumors: Growths on the gums or in the mouth may be either benign, cancerous but only locally-invasive, or malignant (capable of causing cancer elsewhere in the body). Any abnormal growth in the mouth should be biopsied to determine whether it is cancerous.
Periodontal disease: Plaque accumulation on the teeth, if untreated, leads to inflammation of the gums and destruction of the tooth-supporting structures, including bone. Periodontal disease is the single most common health problem in cats and dogs.
Stomatitis: A painful inflammatory disease resulting in ulceration and bleeding of the mouth, stomatitis is more common in cats but may also occur in dogs (far right).