Pet Dental Month: The Severity of a Slab Fracture in Dogs

mt. carmel animal hospital slab fracture in dogs

Mount Carmel Animal Hospital discusses the severity of a slab fracture in dogs and its effects on your dog’s health.

A slab fracture in dogs commonly occurs and can result from external trauma, such as chewing on hard items like bones or other hard, non-flexible chew toys or something more extreme like being hit by a car or a hard object. The most commonly affected are the largest upper pre-molars, commonly called the “carnassial,” since these are the teeth that do the bulk of the chewing. In honor of pet dental month, Mount Carmel Animal Hospital discusses the severity of a slab fracture in dogs and its effects on your dog’s health.

What Does a Slab Fracture Consist Of?

Sometimes a slab fracture in dogs can result in a chip of their enamel (the teeth’s hard mineralized surface) and dentin (bony tissue below the enamel). Other times, their tooth is so fractured that the nerve is exposed to the outside. The five classifications of tooth fractures in dogs include:

  • Enamel fracture: When your dog’s enamel is fractured due to a loss of crown substance.
  • Complicated crown fracture: A fracture of your dog’s crown that exposes the pulp.
  • Uncomplicated crown fracture: A crown fracture that doesn’t show the pulp.
  • Complicated crown-root fracture: When a fractured crown and root expose the pulp.
  • Uncomplicated crown-root fracture: A fractured crown and root that doesn’t expose the pulp.
  • Root fracture: A fracture involving the tooth’s root.

Causes for a Slab Fracture in Dogs

Dogs enjoy chewing. Unfortunately, when chewing on hard things like bones or hard plastic toys, their bite’s strength against the hard surface can lead to broken teeth. This occurs when the dog bites down on hard objects at just the right angle to flake off a slab of the tooth. In addition, the piece’s size that breaks depends on the blow’s force and angle. So, what are the signs to watch out for? They include:

  • Facial swelling
  • Teeth grinding
  • Excessive drooling
  • Chewing on one side
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Shying away when the face is petted
  • Refusing to consume hard food
  • Not wanting to chew on hard treats or toys

Why Is It a Problem?

A slab fracture in dogs can be a problem because it is uncomfortable or even painful for your pet. When the chipped enamel exposes the dentin, the affected tooth can be sensitive to cold, heat, and pressure. In addition, the condition worsens when the pulp (nerve) is exposed. Since the bacteria have a safe hiding place inside the dog’s root canal, their immune system is unable to fight the infection, even with antibiotic treatment. Over time, the bacteria exiting the tooth’s apex can spread, triggering local tooth pain every time the dog chews and infection in other body parts.


Most fractured teeth must be treated by a veterinarian to produce pain-free function. There are usually two options for an exposed nerve: root canal therapy and extraction. Fortunately, the tooth can be repaired without root canal therapy if there is no exposed nerve. Neglecting the problem is not recommended because the tooth will eventually become sensitive and painful and can become infected.

Root Canal Therapy

Root canal therapy is performed by a board-certified veterinary dentist. It includes the removal of the diseased tissue. Similar to people, an X-ray of your dog’s tooth examines the surrounding bone and confirms that the root is intact. Also, medical equipment is utilized to clean, disinfect, and complete the root canal to prevent potential bacterial contamination and save the tooth.

Additionally, a metal or tooth-colored crown might be placed after a root canal treatment, depending on the amount of missing crown and the dog’s lifestyle.

Vital Pulp Therapy

This procedure, also performed by a board-certified veterinary dentis, can be done on recently fractured teeth in younger pups (under 18 months of age). In vital pulp therapy, a small amount of pulpal tissue is eliminated to remove surface bacteria and inflamed tissue. Furthermore, a medicated dressing is positioned on the newly exposed pulp to enable healing. A protective barrier consisting of dental composite is also placed on top of the dressing. Vital pulp therapy can be performed as an alternative to a root canal, but some pets might still require potential root canal treatment in the future.

Broken Teeth Removal

Lastly, the broken teeth can be extracted to eliminate any further issues. This can be done by any of the veterinarians at Mount Carmel Animal Hospital. The removal procedure includes oral surgery for the large canine and chewing teeth. This surgery is comparable to eliminating impacted wisdom teeth in human patients. Just like you would, your pet will receive a local anesthetic and pain medication to help with any discomfort related to the procedure.


Mount Carmel Animal Hospital has been serving the Northern Baltimore/Southern York community for over 30 years and is proud to be an independently operated, small animal practice committed to excellence in veterinary medicine and client service. From grooming to wellness services, along with Canine Life Skills Training Courses, and surgical procedures, we have the expertise that will best serve the needs of you and your pet. Contact us at 410-343-0200 and follow us on Facebook!

This entry was posted on Friday, February 17th, 2023 at 10:38 am. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.