Emergency & Urgent Care

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We expect the unexpected.

Often we think of pet emergencies as dramatic situations where some trauma has happened, bleeding must be stopped, pain is severe, and actions have to be taken quickly. Besides these scenarios, there are a number of situations that require urgent care or a fast track approach to veterinary dentistry and oral surgery.

Animal Dental Clinic partners with veterinary hospitals throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to provide dental and maxillofacial surgery expertise in emergency and urgent care situations of all kinds.

Oral tumors: Because animals hide their oral problems for as long as possible, oral tumors often can go unnoticed for a significant period of time. When discovered, a fast-track approach should be taken quickly to determine the nature and extent of the tumor and remove it before it spreads.

Animal Dental Clinic: Oral Tamor
Oral tumor found on the mandible of a dog. Biopsy showed this to be a malignant tumor. It was surgically resected and the patient has recovered very well.

Malocclusion: A puppy or kitten whose jaws do not grow appropriately may have malocclusion (misalignment of teeth) such that sharp teeth are puncturing the delicate soft tissues of the mouth instead of interlocking normally.

Some of these conditions require urgent treatment to alleviate the pain, achieve comfortable occlusion and prevent complications to adjacent tissues.

Early and appropriate intervention may provide the conditions that allow the jaws to develop to their full genetic potential.

Animal Dental Clinic: Malocclusion
Malocclusion in a cat. The mandibular canines contact the maxillary gingiva, causing trauma.

Deciduous tooth fracture (puppies and kittens): Deciduous (“baby”) teeth are sharp and delicate. Since puppies and kittens are often too busy learning about their world to be careful with their teeth, it’s not uncommon for them to fracture. While these teeth don’t look like much, they are deceptive: their roots are long and reach deep into the jaw. These fractures are painful, and usually expose the pulp canal, which means that oral bacteria (and everything else that goes into the puppy or kitten’s mouth) can travel down the pulp canal into the periodontal tissues causing infection and chronic pain. This periodontal infection can also interfere with the permanent tooth developing nearby.

Animal Dental Clinic: Puppy Tooth fx
Fractured deciduous (baby) canine tooth in a five month-old dog. The immature permanent canine tooth has a round, wide, and poorly defined apex (root tip), while the fractured deciduous canine tooth alongside it is narrow and straight.

Tooth fracture (young adults): The fragile immature permanent teeth of young adult dogs and cats have thin walls and are prone to fracture, often leaving the sensitive pulp exposed. Exposed pulp is painful, and over time, the tooth loses its nerve and blood supply to infection, and the open root canal can allow oral bacteria to travel into the soft tissue at the tip of the root, causing an abscess. Prompt treatment (within 48 hours of the fracture occurring) is intended to control pain, prevent abscess formation, and maintain the viability of the tooth, allowing the tooth to continue normal development.

Vital Pulp Therapy. Gray: composite restoration; Green: pulp medication.

Tooth fracture (adults): In adult animals, tooth walls are thicker, and more resistant to fracture, but tooth fractures can still occur, particularly in those who chew on hard materials or sustain oral trauma. Despite the fact that animals hide oral pain to the best of their ability, fractured teeth, particularly when the pulp is exposed, are very painful. A careful assessment is needed anytime a tooth fracture occurs, as pain medication may be indicated, and a plan for more definitive treatment such as dentinal sealants, vital pulp therapy, root canal therapy, or tooth extraction should be made. In some cases, radiographic monitoring is recommended to determine if treatment is necessary.

Animal Dental Clinic: Adult Tooth Frapture
Complicated crown fracture of the maxillary canine tooth in an adult cat. Despite not showing outward signs of pain, this cat was likely in significant discomfort.

Stomatitis: Stomatitis, especially when it is chronic and extensive, is inherently a very painful condition with debilitating effects. Feline chronic gingivostomatitis and chronic ulcerative paradental stomatitis are two of the most common such conditions. Whenever they become noticed, treatment of the pain is indicated. Medical management provides temporary relief of pain until a more accurate diagnosis under anesthesia and a customized surgical intervention with curative intent is performed.

Animal Dental Clinic: Stomatitis
Feline chronic gingivostomatitis. Some cats are so painful that they will not allow oral examination until they are anesthetized.

Head trauma can be caused by a bite wound, a car accident, running into an object, a blunt or penetrating object, projectiles, falling from heights, and other scenarios, and can cause significant damage to the jaws and teeth. This damage is painful and often interferes with occlusion and oral function, particularly the ability to eat. It may also come along with other injuries to the body.

Head trauma can cause excessive oral bleeding that requires immediate surgical intervention, but fortunately often, surgery can be postponed until the patient is stabilized and considered to be at lower risk of anesthetic complications.

Animal Dental Clinic: Emergency Trauma
Dental radiograph showing a mandibular fracture in a dog.

In patients who have experienced oral or maxillofacial trauma, a veterinarian specialized in dentistry and oral and maxillofacial surgery can evaluate them carefully to customize a surgical plan to repair fractures, preserve blood supply, repair soft tissues, and restore normal occlusion.

Animal Dental Clinic provides oral and maxillofacial surgery services for trauma patients including soft tissue laceration repairs, maxillo-mandibular fracture repair, stabilization of avulsed teeth, and reconstructive surgery.

When healing requires the placement of a temporary feeding tube, or for patients who have difficulty eating, our in-house veterinary nutrition specialist can recommend and/or customize the appropriate diet to meet a specific pet’s needs during recovery.

Animal Dental Clinic partners with veterinary hospitals throughout the San Francisco Bay Area to provide dental and maxillofacial expertise in emergency situations of all kinds.