Treating Oral Fractures in Dogs

At Montana Pet Dental and Oral Surgery, we know that jaw fractures can be just as traumatic for dogs as for their owners. Our resident veterinary dentist, Dr. Tony Woodward DVM, AVDC, has extensive experience treating jaw fractures in dogs. Read on to learn more about how we can help if your dog’s jaw gets broken. 

What Causes Broken Jaws in Dogs?

Fractures commonly occur in the face (maxilla) or lower jaw (mandible) bones. The most common causes of jaw fractures in dogs are periodontal disease and trauma from accidents like physical altercations with other dogs, or being struck by a vehicle. 

A broken jaw from periodontal disease typically results from severe bone loss surrounding the teeth, usually the molars. Bone loss has the ability to weaken the jaw (mandible) to the point where it can fracture from normal play or biting down on kibble. 

Treating a Jaw Fracture

The first step of the initial assessment is taking x-rays to help assess the full extent of the fracture. If your dog is stable, then we can perform a sedated oral exam to fully assess the damage to the jaw and oral cavity. A Cone Beam CT provides a 3-dimensional look at the fracture site, which is invaluable in treatment planning.

When repairing a jaw after a fracture, we always make your dog’s quality of life our first priority. We will do our best to repair your dog’s jaw in a way that will make their everyday life as normal as possible. 

There are several techniques we can use to stabilize your dog’s jaw fracture, but many fractures can be repaired with intraoral wire and acrylic splints. They are relatively inexpensive, provide immediate post-operative function, maintain the normal relationship of the teeth to allow normal chewing, and are minimally invasive. In other cases, repair with wires and/or bone plates is required. We prefer to avoid wires and plates whenever possible to decrease the expense of repair and avoid damage to the roots of the teeth and nerves, particularly in the lower jaw.

First, we carefully clean the fracture site and remove any loose bone fragments. If any teeth have been compromised, we may need to extract them and close the site with absorbable sutures. 

Next, we will scale and polish all of your dog’s teeth with flour pumice. After cleaning, a wire splint is then fashioned around the teeth on each side of the fracture and tightened. The loops of the twisted wire are placed in a way that allows for complete closure of the mouth. The final step is to place a cold-cure acrylic material over the teeth and wire on both sides of the fracture. The mouth is held completely closed while the acrylic material sets up, ensuring normal chewing function during the healing period. The combination of the wire and acrylic material is very strong, similar to rebar used inside concrete driveways.

Recovery After Jaw Fracture Treatment

Following the procedure, we will prescribe pain medication and possibly antibiotics to make the healing process go smoothly and prevent any infections or complications. Your dog should only be fed soft food during recovery. 

Playing with toys is not allowed until the splint is removed. In addition, the splint should be brushed twice daily to remove food debris. After brushing the splint, apply a chlorhexidine oral rinse to the area twice per day. We may also recommend that your dog wears an Elizabethan collar in order to prevent any accidental self-trauma or loosening of the splint. 

We will check the splint for stability after 7-10 days, and then radiograph it 4-6 weeks later, depending on the severity of the fracture and the age of the patient. Once we can see radiographic evidence of bony healing, we will remove the splint. There may be some soft tissue ulceration after splint removal, but it will heal very quickly.

Veterinary Dentist and Oral Surgeon in Bozeman, Montana

At Montana Pet Dental, we always strive for the best quality of life for your pet. We want all of our patients to have the best dental care and recovery possible when they suffer a jaw fracture or other dental trauma. If you are in need of emergency dental care for your dog, please give us a call right away.