It’s hot out there these days. Rex’s favorite way to cool off is swimming in the river with his friends. There is, however, one necessary ingredient that completes the fun factor…. The Ball. Rexy and his doggie buddies all share the ball-chasing passion, which is accompanied by ball-chewing.
Every chomp a dog gives to a ball in his/her mouth will create wear on each surface of each tooth that comes into contact with that ball. This wear is known as (either) abrasion or blunting. Chewing on a ball over time, your dog could develop ‘Tennis Ball Mouth’- the teeth wear down around the shape of the ball which creates a point to the outside of the upper and lower canine teeth. The canines are the long teeth behind your dog’s incisors, and are very important when it comes to being able to bite down (to chew meat or grab a toy). If abrasion of these teeth is significant enough, they could become sensitive, or even painful.
How would we know if our dog’s teeth are sensitive? You might notice a reluctance to really chew food, or a reluctance to eat at all. Your dog might be drooling more than usual. Some dogs will develop head-shyness, and avoid letting anyone touch their mouth.
If the abrasion has exposed the tooth pulp, you may see a small dark dot in the center of the worn-down tooth. This could be a sign of chronic pulp exposure (bad), or it could be a reparative material, called tertiary dentin, produced by the tooth in response to chronic wear (not so bad). Your veterinarian can use a tool, called an explorer, to determine the level of damage. If the explorer ‘falls into’ the pulp chamber, the tooth will probably need to be extracted. If the explorer runs over tertiary dentin, it feels smooth as glass, and may not require any treatment.
What can we do for our avid ball-lovers, other than remove the ball from their lives? There is a large difference in the level of tooth wear between the fuzzy balls, and the rubber balls- the fuzzy balls act like steel wool on teeth, and the smooth rubber causes much slower abrasion. Minimizing the time the ball is in your dog’s mouth can help- the ball is only available during Ball Time or you can continuously throw the ball (easiest with a Retriever), so there is more chase-time than chew-time.
Be sure to monitor your dog’s behavior, so you’re aware of anything that may indicate a physical problem. Even something as wonderful as Ball Love could cause trouble.