When you think of braces, you likely think about a particularly awkward time in your life when your parents shelled out thousands for metal rods to be inserted into your mouth. You probably don’t think about dogs.
Dog braces are, in fact, A Thing — but unlike human braces, aesthetics aren’t a part of the consideration at all. Dogs only get braces under specific and serious conditions, where they’re in pain or they have a dental problem that can lead to more severe issues.
A major reason dogs some dogs need orthodontic work is when they have a malocclusion, meaning their teeth aren’t properly aligned. Some malocclusions are relatively harmless. But others can be painful, like when the pointy teeth on the top and the bottom are hitting each other.
Another common reason for dog braces is linguoversion, where teeth are pushed further back than they should be. They can sometimes rub against the roof of the dog’s mouth — and in the worst case scenario, even poke a hole through the mouth. Not only would that be excruciatingly painful, but it could also lead to infection.
Like human babies, puppies have some baby teeth that fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. But in some cases, the baby teeth don’t fall out as expected — and if the adult teeth start to grow in, the mouth gets pretty crowded. Sometimes teeth are extracted; in other cases, braces can help get the teeth where they should be and prevent infection.
“We’re not doing this for aesthetics,” Dr. Donnell Hansen, a veterinary dentist and oral surgeon in Minnesota, told Pet MD. “We’re doing this for a healthier and more comfortable bite.”
Dog orthodontics is a fairly niche industry — not every vet’s office is ready to put on dog braces. There are only a handful of clinics in major Canadian cities like Montreal and Toronto. And they can come with a hefty pricetag. PetMD suggests they range from $1,500 and $4,000 USD, plus the cost of vet visits.
The best way to keep your dog’s teeth healthy are to brush them regularly. Your dog might not enjoy it, but it’s definitely better than the alternative.