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The Case of the Missing Teeth

Tex came to the Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt for the first time when he was 8 months old. He was rescued from a shelter in Virginia and though he was generally a very happy and active puppy, his new owners noticed that there was something wrong with his mouth. The right side of his jaw had suddenly become swollen and he was having difficulty chewing. They thought he might have injured his mouth playing with their other dogs but they weren’t sure. Concerned, they brought him to see me so I could figure out what was wrong.

What I discovered in Tex’s mouth was quite remarkable. The first thing that I noticed was that he did not have the proper number of teeth! Tex had two teeth that should have been visible above the gum line that were not there. Furthermore, the right side of his mouth was swollen and painful and some of the teeth that were present were misshapen. The red circle in this picture shows where one of the teeth should be but is not.

I immediately recommended that Tex have x-rays of his mouth taken in order to figure out what was going on with the missing teeth. What I found was that the teeth that were missing were actually present below the gum line and these unerupted teeth were causing big problems for Tex. This x-ray shows the teeth that are to blame for Tex’s painful mouth:

When teeth do not break through the gum tissue normally, they can form what are called dentigerous cysts. In addition to being painful, the cysts can lead to bone loss in the jaw and possible damage to the surrounding teeth. Sometimes the cysts can become so large that a fracture of the jaw occurs. Some even theorize that over time the cysts can become cancerous.

For Tex, x-rays were critical in determining the cause of his swollen jaw and missing teeth. Fortunately, at the Animal Hospital at Lake Brant we are well equipped to perform complex oral surgery. I was able to remove all the retained teeth which resolved the swelling and pain in his jaw. He doesn’t have the “normal” number of teeth now but he does have a healthy, pain free mouth!

A thorough oral exam is part of every physical exam performed on puppies evaluated by the doctors at The Animal Hospital at Lake Brandt. If we notice that one or more of your dog’s teeth are missing, we will recommend that the area is radiographed to determine if there could be a more serious problem lurking below the gum line.

A big thanks to Tex for being such a great teaching case!

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