Will My Dog’S Dead Tooth Fall Out?

What is a dead tooth in dogs?

A dead tooth in dogs, also called a non-vital tooth, is one in which the pulp or nerve inside has died due to injury or disease (Animal Dental Specialist, 2022). This causes the blood supply to be cut off from the tooth, leading to tissue death. Dead teeth are most commonly caused by trauma like a fracture or blunt force injury to the tooth. Infection, periodontal disease, and simply old age can also result in tooth death if left untreated.

The most noticeable sign of a dead tooth is discoloration, usually turning grey, black, brown, or reddish-purple (AWC&B Veterinary Clinic, 2022). A dead tooth may also develop an odor or abscess if infected. There may be some swelling around the tooth or gumline as well. However, dogs often show no obvious outward symptoms despite having a dead tooth.

Potential complications

A dead tooth can cause significant pain and discomfort for dogs. The inner pulp of the tooth dies, leaving the tooth without a blood supply and nerves. This results in infection inside the tooth (WagWalking). The bacteria from the infection can spread to the tooth roots and jawbone, causing further infection in surrounding areas (PetMD).

As the infection worsens, it can damage the ligaments and bone around the dead tooth. This leads to further deterioration of the tooth and loosening in the socket. Surrounding teeth are also at risk, as the infection can spread to nearby teeth and cause decay. A dead tooth is extremely painful for dogs. The nerves inside the tooth die, leading to throbbing, aching pain. Dogs may show signs of discomfort including crying, whining, reduced appetite, and reluctance to chew on one side of the mouth.

In severe cases, the jawbone around the infected tooth may die. This can lead to fractures and eventually tooth loss if left untreated. Prompt veterinary care is crucial to stop the infection from spreading and causing extensive damage.

Will a dead tooth fall out naturally?

Whether a dead tooth will fall out on its own depends on the extent of infection or damage to the tooth and surrounding structures (Perkins, 2022). A tooth that has died due to minor trauma may eventually become loose and fall out as the bone and ligaments around it deteriorate. However, a severely infected tooth likely won’t fall out on its own and requires extraction to prevent the spread of bacteria (Toegrips, 2023).

According to veterinarians, dead teeth that become loose may fall out on their own over time. As the blood supply is lost, the ligaments and bone supporting the tooth weaken and deteriorate (EMBRACE Pet Insurance, 2023). However, the dead tooth root may remain lodged in the socket even after the crown falls out. This retained root can still cause problems and requires extraction.

Overall, while minor trauma may lead to eventual tooth loss, severely infected or damaged teeth likely need professional extraction. Owners should monitor for loose teeth but also watch for signs of oral infection like bad breath, bleeding gums, or swelling which indicates a tooth will not fall out naturally and veterinary attention is required (AWC & B Veterinary Center, 2023).

When to see the vet

You should take your dog to see the veterinarian as soon as you notice any signs of a dead or dying tooth, even if your dog does not appear to be in pain. Some signs that indicate it is time to see the vet include:

Signs of pain or infection – A dead tooth is prone to infection which can spread to the root and jawbone. Signs of an infection include swelling in the mouth, discharge around the tooth, redness, bleeding from the gums, and foul breath. Your dog may show signs of pain like reduced appetite, reluctance to chew on one side of their mouth, pawing at their mouth, or aggression when you touch their head.

Loose or damaged tooth – If you see that the tooth is loose, cracked, missing enamel, or otherwise compromised this indicates the tooth is non-vital and intervention is required. Bacteria and infection can enter the tooth through any cracks or damage leading to more severe problems.

Trouble eating – If your dog is dropping food, seems to have difficulty chewing, or is avoiding hard foods, this can be a sign of tooth pain or infection. Dead teeth can become very painful and make eating uncomfortable. See your vet if your notice your dog’s eating habits change.

While discolored or dead teeth may not appear to bother your dog initially, leaving them untreated can lead to severe dental disease, tooth loss, infections, and oral pain. Don’t wait until you see obvious signs of pain or infection. It’s important to have your veterinarian assess the tooth as soon as discoloration or damage is noticed.


A veterinarian will perform a thorough dental exam to diagnose a dead tooth in dogs. This involves a visual inspection of the tooth to look for discoloration, cracks, or abnormalities that may indicate pulp death. According to Animal Dental Specialist, “Diagnosis of discolored teeth is made on visual examination.”

The vet will also check for signs of infection around the tooth and assess whether the tooth feels loose, which could mean loss of bone support. They may apply pressure to the tooth to test for pain or instability. According to WagWalking, “Discolored teeth are typically detectable through a visual examination.”

Dental x-rays are often recommended to get a closer look at the tooth roots and surrounding bone. X-rays can help identify infection, abscesses, and other issues not visible from the surface. As stated by Animal Care & Wellness Center vet clinic, “X-rays are needed to properly assess the tooth roots and bone around dead teeth.”

Treatment Options

If your dog is diagnosed with a dead tooth, there are a few treatment options available depending on the severity of the tooth damage:

Extraction – If the tooth is severely damaged or decayed, the veterinarian may recommend full extraction to remove it entirely. Though traumatic, extraction completely eliminates the dead tooth and prevents further infection or complications.

Root Canal – If the tooth still has healthy roots, a veterinary dentist may be able to perform a root canal to remove the infected pulp and salvage the tooth. This involves drilling into the tooth, clearing out the dead pulp, disinfecting, and sealing off the root canals.

Antibiotics – Your vet may prescribe antibiotics to treat or prevent any bacterial infection arising from the dead tooth. This may be given alongside extraction or root canal procedures.

Extraction surgery

Extraction surgery is a common procedure performed by veterinarians to remove damaged, infected, or problematic teeth from dogs. The procedure involves anesthesia to fully sedate the dog, followed by extraction of the tooth using dental instruments (Hill’s Pet Nutrition, 2020).

There are some risks associated with extraction surgery, including infection, bleeding, and delayed healing of the surgical site. Most dogs require 48-72 hours of rest and restricted activity while recovering from an extraction. Some swelling and mild discomfort is normal for the first few days. To manage pain, veterinarians often prescribe medications for several days following surgery (Wellpets, 2023).

Aftercare following extraction involves monitoring the incision site, administering any prescribed medications, and feeding the dog soft food initially. Owners should avoid brushing near the surgical area for at least a week. Activity should be restricted during the recovery period to prevent complications. Most dogs fully recover their energy levels and return to normal within 1-2 weeks after a tooth extraction procedure.

Root Canal

Root canal therapy is a treatment option when infection has damaged the pulp inside the tooth, but the tooth’s roots and surrounding bone remain viable [1]. Root canal therapy aims to save the tooth rather than removing it completely.

The procedure involves removing the infected pulp tissue inside the tooth, disinfecting the canal system, then sealing and filling the now empty canals [2]. Success rates depend on many factors, including the severity of infection and the dog’s overall health. However, root canal therapy allows most dogs to keep the affected tooth for the rest of their life if the procedure and aftercare go well.

Here is a quick overview of the root canal procedure according to Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital [2]:

  • Make an access into the root canal
  • Clean and shape the canal space
  • Disinfect the canal system
  • Obturate or fill the canal space
  • Place a temporary seal over the access site
  • Restore the tooth with a permanent filling or crown

Proper aftercare and monitoring are also crucial for the best prognosis after a root canal procedure.

[1] https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/does-my-dog-need-a-root-canal
[2] https://vethospital.tamu.edu/small-animal/dentistry/root-canal-therapy/

Caring for your dog after tooth extraction

After a tooth extraction, dogs typically need some extra care while recovering. Proper aftercare is important for managing pain, preventing complications, and helping the extraction site heal.

Pain management

Your vet will likely prescribe pain medication for a few days after surgery. Follow the dosage instructions carefully and don’t stop giving the medicine before the full course is complete (East Valley Animal Clinic, 2019). You may need to gently open your dog’s mouth to give oral medication. Signs your dog is in pain include whining, restlessness, changes in appetite, and licking or biting at the surgery site.

Diet changes

Your dog may have trouble chewing hard kibble after a tooth extraction. Switch to soft, wet food or soak the kibble in warm water to soften it (WellPets, 2023). Avoid giving any hard treats or chew toys until the extraction site has fully healed, which usually takes 7-10 days.

Brushing teeth

While you should avoid the surgery site at first, keep brushing your dog’s other teeth as usual. Good oral hygiene will help prevent plaque buildup and protect their remaining teeth. Once healed, you can gently brush the teeth around the extraction site – just avoid putting pressure on the gumline near the missing tooth.


There are several steps dog owners can take to help prevent tooth decay and problems with dead teeth in their pets, including:

Dental Hygiene – Regular tooth brushing and dental chews can help remove plaque and tartar that cause tooth decay. Brushing 2-3 times per week with a pet-safe toothpaste is recommended. Annual professional dental cleanings at the vet also help significantly.

Healthy Diet – Feeding a high-quality dog food and avoiding excess sugars and simple carbohydrates can reduce plaque buildup. Hard kibble also helps scrape plaque off teeth as dogs chew. Chew toys further help clean teeth.

Regular Vet Exams – Annual veterinary dental exams allow early detection and treatment of dental disease before major problems occur. The vet can assess tooth discoloration, dental decay, and other issues.

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