A to Z Challenge: R is for Root Canal

Today’s topic is not a happy one and this is something I hope none of my readers have to go through.

Although QQ is only 1 and a half year old, he recently had to undergo a root canal procedure because he chipped his tooth.

He chipped his tooth chewing on an antler bone.

We are pretty obsessive about keeping our dog’s teeth clean. We brush his teeth every night. We give him PlaqueOff, we used a teeth scraper. However, we are still seeing plaque build up. We started giving him antler bones and marrow bones because I read that those help with cleaning teeth. However, I worried that he might break his tooth on it (and he did!). The antler bones especially seem so hard.  I would only give the marrow bones and antler bones  for short, supervised periods of times. However, when we visited the vet for his annual exam in January, I talked to the vet and she actually told me that it’s okay to give QQ the antler bone for long periods of time, as long as I wanted to actually. I also witnessed how QQ managed to finish entire antler bones without any harm to his teeth. He doesn’t bite down with his front teeth and doesn’t bite down hard. He just tend to grind at them with his back teeth. I also observed how he doesn’t chew at them overly long. He usually chews for awhile and then he ignores the bone for a long period. So I let my guard down and allowed QQ to have 24 hour access to the antler bones.

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The Barkworthy Antler Bone that QQ was chewing on when he broke his tooth. As seen, it’s half eaten. I brought this in to the dental clinic to show the dentist, and he joked that we are showing him the “weapon”.

One Sunday morning, he was chewing the bone as usual. We weren’t watching him but we were in the same room, and we didn’t notice anything wrong. He didn’t let out a squeal or any sign of pain. We went out soon after and he acted perfectly normal. We went to the dog park and he played with other dogs like he usually does. He usually sits on my lap during car rides and in the afternoon on our way to lunch, I played with him and I thought I saw something in his teeth. I originally thought it was a piece of meat caught in his teeth from breakfast, but upon closer inspection, I realized that a piece of his tooth was missing and the pink I was seeing was actually his tooth bed.

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You can clearly see the tooth bed. Our vet said it was like a model of a tooth, showing all the different layers within a tooth. This photo was taken before the root canal procedure so there’s plaque build up from 3 weeks of no-brushing. Originally, the separate layers were much clearer

 

The only sign of pain he showed was when I touched his tooth with my finger. He immediately flinched and attempted to jump to my husband (whenever he is scared or frightened, he looks for either the husband or me. if either one of us is doing something he doesn’t like, he seeks the other one). We both freaked out a little. I immediately did some research online, and found out that if a chipped tooth wasn’t fixed, it could lead to bacteria infection. I was also very worried that QQ was in pain, although he showed no sign of it whatsoever, unless someone tried to touch it. We quickly made an appointment with his vet. We also took away all his bones and any toy that’s hard.

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The piece of tooth that the husband found.

 

At night, when the husband tried to brush that tooth, QQ again flinched and shied away. From this, we knew that the tooth must have chipped on Sunday morning, because when the husband brushed his teeth on Saturday night, he was perfectly okay. The next day, the husband noticed QQ found something on the carpet and was trying to lick it, he picked it up and it was a tiny piece of tooth! And it fit perfectly into the missing spot. The husband found it exactly where QQ was chewing his antler bone the day before. We knew for certain then that the chipped tooth came from chewing his bone.When we visited the vet, she said it was simply bad luck. It’s rare for a puppy as young as QQ to experience a tooth fracture like he did. There was simply no other explanation for it. She recommended us to an animal dental clinic for a root canal, because he’s so young and we definitely do not want to do an extraction.

The animal dental clinic was pretty busy and we could only make an appointment for 3 weeks later. I was very worried that QQ might be in pain (although I still wasn’t seeing any signs of it – he played and ate as he usually do). The dental clinic said that after 3 days, the dog doesn’t really feel any pain. We avoided brushing that particular side of his mouth, and went on with our lives.

When we finally reached the date of our appointment, the dental clinic said they actually see way more teeth fractures from antler bones than most people thought. As it turns out, they DO NOT recommend antler bones or marrow bones at all. They were surprised when we told them it was our vet that recommended antler bones as a form of teeth cleaning on top of brushing. They said we should simply brush the teeth and make sure to brush the gum as well. As long as the gums are healthy, we shouldn’t worry if the teeth are a little yellow.

They said they have 3 rules when it comes to chews for dogs.

1. It crumbles, like cookies or biscuits.

2. There’s “give” in the toy, like a rubber toy.

3.  When you press down hard on the object with your fingernail, you can leave an imprint, like a fingernail line.

If it doesn’t meet either of the above rules, you shouldn’t give it to the dog.

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QQ just before the procedure, high from the morphine. Chyler was there for moral support.

We had a blood test done with our family vet and everything looked good so QQ was a good candidate for the root canal procedure. We made an appointment for next week, and luckily the procedure went smoothly.  They did the anesthesia injection  for QQ and we stayed until he was a little woozy. The dentist told us that he would probably be a little whiny and lethargic after the procedure from the anesthesia. But he’s QQ. When they called to say it was okay to pick him up, they said “he’s all hyper and chirpy already!” I saw no sign of whining at all, and he didn’t sleep any more than his usual naps.

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Post procedure. There’s some redness from irritation where the dentist cleaned under the gum.

 

The procedure was incredibly expensive. Everything added up to $2300, inclusive of the first vet visit, blood tests, first dental consultation and the procedure. Luckily we had pet insurance. We have a $500 deductible and 80% plan. We paid $960 out of pocket, and the amount the insurance covered is worth about 4 years of insurance. Even so, it is still expensive. Our family vet told us that she was actually researching the cost of a root canal for a human family member, and the cost is pretty much the same, human or canine. There’s a bonus though, the dentist kindly cleaned all of QQ’s teeth during the procedure so all of QQ’s teeth are very white now.

But even more than the cost, I was extremely traumatized over the entire event. Although QQ acted normal the entire time pre and post procedure, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I let something this bad happen to him. I was a little upset that I followed the advice of the vet and this happened. If I remained as paranoid I was before, and only gave him the antler bone for an hour a day and supervised it the entire time, would this not have happened?

According to the dentist, yes it could. It can happen any time. I can give it to him for only 15 minutes a day and it could happen during that 15 mins. It might not happen this year. It might not happen next year.  It doesn’t matter if they don’t chew hard on the bone. He said there are dogs that go for years chewing on antler bones, and they break a tooth on the tenth year. And there are dogs like QQ that break a tooth on his first year. It’s really just luck when it happens. There’s the possibility that it could never happen in the entire lifetime. But that’s a gamble. The safest thing to do is just not give it to him and to only give him items that fit the three rules told us.

I’ve decided that I’m not going to give QQ antler bones anymore. I don’t know about Chyler. According to the dentist, it’s simply luck that Chyler hasn’t broke a tooth yet. But Chyler doesn’t like antler bones as much as QQ anyway. She tends to leave them alone. I think it’s likely that I’m just not going to give either of them antler bones anymore.

QQ LOVES marrow bones. I’m still in a dilemma over what I should do about that. QQ doesn’t usually chew the marrow bone like he does antler bones. He usually just tries his best to lick the marrow out and chew the tendons and meat outside the bone. Marrow bones is the one treat he goes crazy for. I really don’t know if I want to cut it out of his life. I have a bag of marrow bones in the freezer and I don’t know if I will just end up making bone broth out of it.

In the meantime, I’m just glad that QQ’s okay. And that this didn’t seem to affect him as much as it did me.

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