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4-month-old puppy has a broken tooth – what should I do?

Puppies lose their first teeth, called deciduous teeth, around 4 months old and usually lose all their baby teeth between 4 to 6 months of age.

Broken or chipped teeth are common in puppies and are caused by chewing on objects such as bones, antlers, or hard chew toys. Sometimes a broken tooth can be caused by blunt trauma, such as when two dogs bump heads.

The first step should be to inspect your puppy’s mouth to assess the broken tooth, but only if you trust your puppy feels comfortable having your fingers inside its mouth and will not bite you.

Steps to take for your puppy can differ depending on how the tooth has broken. Below is a guide through the tooth inspection and actions to take, depending on what you find.

How to inspect your puppy’s broken tooth

Before looking inside your puppy’s mouth, consider whether it is safe. Owners who regularly brush their puppy’s teeth, or practice finger play (fingers inside the puppy’s mouth) and know their puppy is comfortable with this action, should proceed.

Only inspect inside your puppy’s mouth if you know from previous experience this action will not result in the puppy biting you. If your puppy is growling or showing its teeth, you should be cautious.

If you feel comfortable and safe, below are some steps you can follow. However, if you are unsure how your puppy will react, you should seek professional help from your veterinarian.

  • Make sure your puppy is relaxed and comfortable.
  • Gently lift your puppy’s gum flaps to inspect the broken tooth.
  • To aid your inspection, you could provide a chew toy to distract the puppy. While your puppy chews the toy, you could gently lift its gum flap to inspect the tooth.
  • Examine with care.
  • When possible, have someone take a photo of the tooth to allow for closer inspection later and to shorten the time you have your fingers inside your puppy’s mouth.
  • Be sure to notice where the tooth is broken.
  • Notice if there is any blood, redness, or swelling.
  • Remember to reward your puppy with praise and a treat after the inspection.

What to do if you can see the pulp (the pink insides of the tooth)?

If your puppy has broken a baby tooth that shows pulp exposure, this is painful for your puppy and can lead to infection.

How to identify pulp

The pulp of the tooth is the inner part of the tooth where the nerves are located. The pulp is very sensitive and can be identified as the tooth’s pink insides.

Risks factors

Pulp exposure causes great sensitivity and pain and often leads to infection.

Remember that an infection from a tooth can move into a dog’s bloodstream and make it very sick.

For this reason, even if the broken tooth is a baby one, you should always seek advice and treatment from your vet.

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Stop the bleeding and swelling

To properly inspect and assess the tooth of concern, you should stop any bleeding inside your puppy’s mouth and also take steps to prevent swelling.

A few ways to do this are as follows:

  • Take a syringe and fill it with cold water. Gently and slowly expel tiny amounts of the water into your puppy’s mouth, around the tooth.
  • Find a small, clean washcloth and soak it in cold water. Fold this into a u-shape and fit it over the teeth inside the puppy’s mouth. Gently hold it there for a few minutes until the bleeding has stopped.
  • You can also place a washcloth in the freezer, and then, roll it into the same u-shape. Administer it inside your puppy’s mouth, in the same way, to reduce swelling to the area of concern.
  • Remember to reward your puppy with praise for allowing you to work inside its mouth.

Signs your puppy is in pain

In situations where there is pulp exposure on a broken tooth, your puppy will likely be in pain. Ways to identify this include:

  • Drooling
  • Red or swollen gums
  • Swollen cheeks
  • Yellow or white fluid around the tooth
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Behavioral changes, such as pawing at the face

Seeking help and advice from your vet

For a broken tooth with pulp exposure, you must seek medical attention from your vet.

As mentioned above, due to the risk of infection, pain, and sensitivity, as well as the risk of abscesses, most vets will recommend professionally removing the tooth, which is the safest option for your puppy.

Your vet will also provide pain relief medication or antibiotics post-tooth removal if required.

The tooth removal will also protect the still-developing adult tooth.

What to do if the pulp is not exposed?

Understanding puppy teeth

Puppies usually lose their baby teeth between 4 to 6 months of age, but a broken tooth is quite common in puppies 10 weeks to 9 months.

Puppies lose their first teeth, called deciduous teeth, around 4 months old, and the canines fall out at about 6 months old.

A puppy will lose these baby teeth naturally. You may find them on the floor, inside chew toys, or your puppy may even swallow them.

All of this is natural and is of no concern. However, when puppies break a tooth, it is important to determine whether there is any pulp exposure.

If there is no pulp exposure on the broken tooth and no break near the gum, this is usually the least concerning, regarding tooth breaks.

Assess the tooth

As your puppy’s baby teeth will naturally fall out in time, you can consider leaving the broken tooth alone and allowing it to fall out when it is ready.

If you have assessed the tooth and confirmed there is no pulp exposure, no swelling, or sign of infection and your puppy does not appear to be in any pain, then you could adopt a wait-and-see approach, monitoring the tooth daily to ensure there is no change.

Monitor your puppy

A professional opinion from your vet is always recommended.

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But, if you decide to wait and see, you should monitor your puppy’s tooth until it falls out naturally, and ensure your puppy is not displaying any signs of pain or infection.

Provide frozen treats

Providing frozen treats to your puppy when it has broken a tooth could address any lingering swelling or discomfort.

Foods like peanut butter sticks and bananas make great frozen treats.

Prevent future tooth breaks

There are ways to try and prevent future broken teeth.

These include only providing soft teething-type chew toys, monitoring what your puppy chews on, and starting daily dental checks.

What to do if the tooth broke at the gum line?

What this means

A broken tooth at the gum line is very painful for your puppy, and a vet should remove it to prevent any infection from spreading to the still-developing adult tooth.

Treat it as an emergency and seek help from your vet

This is considered a severe break and should be treated as an emergency!

You must seek medical attention from your vet, who will conduct a professional assessment and define the way forward.

In most cases, your vet will remove the broken baby tooth.

Risks to your puppy

When a puppy’s tooth breaks at the gum line, there is pulp exposure and a risk of infection.

The infection could affect the adult tooth and spread to other areas of the puppy’s body.

What if it is an adult tooth?

How to identify adult tooth

Puppy teeth are sharp and needle-like, while adult teeth are stronger, larger, and less sharp.

Therefore, an easy way to assess whether the broken tooth is baby or adult would be to note the size of the tooth compared to others inside the puppy’s mouth.

Immediate actions to take

Remember not to panic. Address the bleeding and swelling with the steps outlined earlier.

As an adult tooth is your puppy’s permanent tooth, it is important to call your vet and secure a professional assessment.

Seek help and advice from your vet

A broken adult tooth will likely mean your puppy is in pain, at risk for infection, and needs to be treated by a vet.

A professional assessment will determine the course of action and whether a root filling or extraction procedure is required.

Final Thoughts

When your 4-month-old puppy breaks a tooth, you need to assess the tooth by gently lifting the puppy’s gum flap, but only if you feel safe doing so.

When the tooth is broken but no pulp is showing, you could take a wait-and-see approach, provided your puppy is not in pain or showing signs of infection, since puppies lose baby teeth naturally.

If the pulp is showing, if the tooth is broken at the gum line, or if you suspect the tooth is an adult one, you should seek medical attention from your vet, due to the risks of infection and your puppy experiencing pain.

For all these situations, address the bleeding and swelling and provide frozen treats like peanut butter sticks or bananas.

Avoid future breaks by providing soft teething toys and monitoring your puppy’s chewing activity.