Emergencies in veterinary dentistry are generally not life threatening. Unfortunately, trauma to the oral cavity and face
can cause discomfort and pain with systemic complications if the patient is not able to eat.
Types of trauma
• Soft tissue trauma
• Tooth injuries
• Jaw fracture
Soft tissue trauma
Trauma to the soft tissue most often affects the lips and the hard palate. With soft tissue trauma there is an increased
risk of hemorrhage. The goal of treatment is to control hemorrhage without compromising the blood supply. Contamination
and particulate debris must be decreased. Debris can be cleared using gentle lavage. Contamination can be brought under
control using a balanced electrolyte and antiseptic solution. Larger fragments and necrotic tissue can be removed manually
while the wound is being cleaned. Surgical drains can be used in severely contaminated wounds.
Degloving injury of the lower lip is a common occurrence in cats that have been hit by a car. Repair of this injury involves
2 options. If the degloved skin is still viable, it can be pulled back up and sutured around the canines and the interdental
spaces of the mandibular incisors. If the skin is not viable, an advancement flap can be raised and anchored to the canines
Injuries involving the loss of part of the nose can be repaired using an advancement, rotation or transposition flap. It
is important to ensure the patency of the nares and that the flaps are not sutured under tension.
Oronasal fistula (onf)
ONF refers to any communication between the oral cavity and the nasal cavity. ONF can occur by an acquired palatal defect
where the trauma occurs from an outside source or it can be congenital. In either case, the defect or injury can be a source
of infection and chronic irritation. Symptoms can include sneezing with a mucopurulent or bloody discharge due to the constant
impaction of food, water and debris. Treatment of these wounds or defects requires flap surgery, rigorous home care, and
diligent follow-up with sedation and probing for possible dehiscence. Soft food must be fed during the entire healing phase.
No chew toys or treats are allowed. Cleft palate repair does require the placement of an esophagostomy feeding tube to allow
the patient to get nutrition and medication pre and post-operatively. Referral to a dentistry or surgical specialist is
Repair of hard palate defects
There are four commonly used flap techniques.
1. Langenbeck Technique
2. Overlapping Double Flap
3. Split Palatal U-Flap
4. Silicone or Acrylic Prosthesis
This is the most familiar technique in the general practice. The margins of the defect are debrided. An incision is made
along the dental margin on either side. It is important to remain clear of the palatine artery. The flap is lifted along
the dental margin and along the edge of the defect to allow movement of the tissue. The edges along the defect are brought
together and sutured leaving the exposed bone to granulate. There can be a breakdown of the repair at the rostral end.
Double Overlapping Flap
This technique brings a decreased risk of rostral breakdown. The epithelial margins of the defect are debrided. Two incisions
are made – along the dental margin encompassing the width of the defect and a flap is made and secondly along the far edge
of the defect on the opposite side. The large flap is flipped over on itself, covering the defect and tucked under the small
raised flap along the edge of the defect. The edges are sutured. The exposed palatine bone is left to granulate in.
Split Palatal U-Flap
This technique is used for large caudal defects of the palate. The margins of the defect are debrided. An upside-down U
incision is made rostral to the defect and incised along the midline of the flap. Both flaps are raised off the bone being
careful not to transect the palatine artery. Each of the two flaps is rotated 90 degrees to cover the defect and sutured
to each other. The exposed bone is left to granulate in.
Defects of the soft palate
Clefts of the soft palate are usually congenital. These can be very large defects and time consuming to repair. It is imperative
to have good visualization and easy access to the whole length of the defect. A double layer closure is required for success.
Defects of the maxillary alveolus
This defect is most familiar to the general practitioner. They can occur as a result of advanced periodontal disease causing
destruction to the bony wall of the alveolus between the oral and nasal cavity. These defects are usually found along the
palatal side of the maxillary canines using a periodontal probe. A small amount of water can be lavaged up into the defect
and will come out through the nose. This condition can also occur if there is a periapical lesion caused by endodontic trauma
or periodontal disease. Lastly, the defect can occur by an iatrogenic cause when extraction causes afracture of the bony
There are two repair techniques.
1. Single Layer Closure
2. Double Layer Closure
Single Layer Closure
This is the most commonly done repair. The canine tooth is extracted and the extraction site is flushed and debrided. The
edges of the alveolus are smoothed and a small area of palatal mucosa is raised and the edges scarified. Wide releasing incisions
are made from the mesial aspect of the third incisor to the distal aspect of the first premolar. A mucoperiosteal flap is
raised extending into the alveolar mucosa to assure enough tissue for a tension free closure. The flap is pulled over the
defect and the sutured closed.
Double Layer Closure
This repair is done if the defect is very large or previous repairs have failed. The same steps are taken for a single flap
closure with the addition of a palatal flap. A palatal flap which is the width of the defect is raised that extends from
the palatal margin of the defect to the palatal midline. The mucoperiosteal flap is raised. The palatal flap is flipped
over on itself and sutured down and the mucoperiosteal is rotated and placed over the palatal flap and sutured down.