What You Can Do for a Dog With an Abnormal Bite

Is the abnormality functional or not? 

If a tooth is out of place but it’s not interfering with other teeth, penetrating the gum line or affecting how your dog eats, a functional bite exists. Repairing a functional bite for cosmetic purposes is not necessary and is considered unethical. 

Abnormal but functional occlusion where the maxillary canine is rostral to the mandibular canine     Non-functional palatal gum line penetrations mandibular canines

When abnormally positioned teeth interfere with other teeth, penetrate the gum line or affect your dog’s ability to eat, a non-functional bite exists and action needs to be taken to create a functional bite. Four treatment options exist: extraction, providing space, crown reduction and restoration, and tooth movement.  

"Repairing a functional bite for cosmetic
purposes is not necessary and is considered unethical."

 When is extraction preferred?

Extraction of the offending or offended tooth (teeth), performed by the general practitioner, is the treatment of choice and usually results in immediate relief. 

Extraction of the canine(s) can be challenging, however. A specialist referral should be considered if the practitioner is not comfortable with the procedure or the surgical consequences.  

3a   Creation of a functional bite through removal of the maxillary third incisor

Malpositioned left maxillary canine   Canine extracted

Non-functional mandibular mesioclusion    Gum line impingement created by maxillary incisors

Maxillary incisor extractions alleviating impingement

"Extraction of the offending or offended
tooth (teeth) is the treatment of choice and
usually results in immediate relief."

Why not just make space rather than extract?

Removal of the impinged gum line can result in a pain-free functional bite. Unfortunately, the benefit can be short lived when the gum line grows back. 

What is crown reduction and restoration?

 Decreasing the height of a canine or incisor will often resolve the impingement or penetration of the gum line. This is an advanced dental procedure, preserving the vitality of the tooth through vital pulp or root canal therapy and restoration with light-cured composite. For added protection, a metallic crown can be placed.  

What’s involved with tooth movement?

 Moving malpositioned teeth to functional positions can be challenging and rewarding. Teeth are either moved surgically or through the use of inclined planes, orthodontic buttons and elastics.

 Rostroverted maxillary canine    Orthodontic buttons and elastics used to move the malpositioned canine caudally

 Functional occlusion achieved

Orthodontic movement is an advanced dental procedure that should only be performed by someone with an advanced understanding of dental anatomy, physiology, and orthodontic principles. For more information, see Orthodontics (Moving Teeth) in Dogs. To find a board certified veterinary dentist in your area, log on to www.avdc.org.


This client information sheet is based on material written by: Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

© Copyright 2013 LifeLearn Inc. Used and/or modified with permission under license.