Fergus is a young German Shepherd who fractured a lower canine tooth (fang tooth) whilst playing. His owner noticed the broken tooth was bleeding and took him straight to the local vet. The fracture had taken the top of the tooth away and exposed the sensitive pulp (the living tissue inside the tooth), resulting in acute pain. Left untreated, an infection invariably develops, resulting in tooth death and chronic infection of the jaw bone.
The lower canines are very important teeth for grasping objects and provide a lot of the lower jaw’s strength due to the sheer size of their roots. Although extraction is an option, it is a difficult and often lengthy surgical procedure. Fergus’ owner was interested saving the tooth if possible, especially as he has many years ahead of him.
Dr Christine Hawke examined Fergus and, following discussion with his owner, the decision was made to perform a vital pulpotomy under general anaesthesia. This technique involves removing any inflamed and contaminated pulp tissue, placing a medication inside the tooth, and sealing it with a white filling (just like those used in people!). It can only be used in very recent fractures, but is less invasive and painful than extraction and gives the tooth its only chance of survival.
Fergus awoke smoothly from his operation and returned home that evening. He will return for follow up x-rays in six months to see how the tooth is recovering.