Vital pulp therapy is recommended when your pet’s tooth is fractured and treatment can be initiated within 24-48 hours of fracture and pulp exposure. Once a tooth is fractured, the pulp is exposed. If ignored, infection and a tooth root abscess will follow. If pulp exposure is greater than 24-48 hours, the resulting infection will affect too much of the pulp, and a root canal becomes necessary. Because of the time sensitivity of the treatment, this is a true dental emergency!
Once the pulp chamber has been opened (i.e. through fracture) it will never close on its own. Additionally, pulp exposure is extremely painful. Vital pulp therapy is exactly what it sounds like – treating the pulp in an effort to keep it vital (alive) and leave the patient with a living, pain-free tooth. If vital pulp therapy treatment is initiated immediately, a protective filling can be placed over the pulp to leave the patient with a pain-free, living tooth that will be no more at risk of ongoing fracture than any other living tooth in the mouth.
Why not just extract the broken tooth?
Unfortunately, there is no such thing as “just extracting” when it comes to an animal’s tooth, especially strategic teeth. Our pet’s teeth are designed to stay in the mouth under extreme forces (think of a lioness taking down a zebra). When otherwise healthy (i.e. not affected by concurrent diseases such as periodontal disease), it is very difficult to extract an animal’s tooth. Often, extraction involves major oral surgery. The canines, upper fourth premolar and lower first molar, in particular, are considered strategic teeth because they are very large and functional. Along with the pain and discomfort associated with surgery, complications can occur, such as a hole extending from the mouth to the nose, jaw fracture and a change in lip conformation leading to painful ulcers. Consequently, when appropriate, it is best to save fractured teeth.
Vital pulp therapy is quick and results in instant relief of the sharp pain where the nerve of the tooth is exposed. The sooner the fractured tooth is treated, the better the success rate of this “instant gratification” procedure. Annual X-rays are important to ensure the tooth is doing well!
For more information on this subject, speak to the veterinarian who is treating your pet.
© 2014 BluePearl Veterinary Partners