Petrodex dog toothpaste in glass with doggie toothbrush

Dog Jaw Chattering and Dental Health

Have you ever seen your dog’s jaw chatter? It might have happened for a split second when he or she was super excited for you to throw the ball, or maybe you’ve seen it and brushed it off as just a weird thing that your dog does once in a while, but didn’t think it was anything serious.

I’m sharing this personal story,  in the hope that it will help someone who is reading everything they can find on the internet about dog jaw chattering.

My dog’s jaw chattering story

I’ve raised my little girl on home prepared and raw food. When she was younger, I gave her raw meaty bones and believed that was the best thing I could do for her dental health. Unfortunately, she broke a couple of teeth chewing on the bones and had to have two root canals.

After the root canals, she could no longer have hard bones or traditional dental bones because the teeth are a lot more fragile after they’ve had work done.  Since then, I’ve brushed her teeth twice a day, every day for years.

Because my little one is older now and I like to stay as holistic as possible, I didn’t want my girl to go under general anesthesia. I had her teeth professionally cleaned one time after the root canals, which was three years ago. We go to the vet regularly, I brush her teeth daily without fail and she eats a pretty amazing diet.

Then one day her jaw suddenly started chattering.

There are many things that could cause jaw chattering.  It could be that your dog is really excited or nervous about something.  Or possibly a result of him getting into something toxic. Perhaps the chattering is from oral eosinophilic plaque-like Turk has in this video.  Jaw chattering in dogs could also be neurological or dental related.

Since our dogs can’t tell us exactly what’s going on, it’s up to us to find out a root cause by starting the process of elimination.

Before the jaw chattering started, my dog started to bite me during our tooth brushing sessions.  I brushed it off as her strong personality.

My dog bit me really hard.

I immediately worried something was wrong with my dog’s teeth or her jaw, but then she seemed fine. She was eating and drinking normally and didn’t have bad breath.

I thought if I desensitized our tooth brushing routine, it might help.  I even consulted with a trainer with a Ph.D. in animal behavior to get some tips.

All of this happened over Christmas and our vet was out of town, but we got in as soon as possible.  We discussed if it could be an allergic reaction, dental pain or neurological.

Our vet examined her and watched videos I provided and suggested we keep an eye on it for a few weeks to eliminate the likelihood of it being allergy related. He knew how good I’ve always been about brushing and she didn’t have any tartar or gingivitis that he commented that she didn’t have a bad odor coming from her mouth.

The chattering continued even in her sleep

Two weeks passed and the jaw tremors (as I was calling them at the time) continued. They’d even happen when she was sleeping. I was worried they might be focal motor seizures, arthritis in her TMJ or a pinched nerve in her neck.

I was reading all I could find on the subject and kept a log of every time the jaw chattering took place, which was several times daily.  I took video after video in all types of scenarios, eating, sleeping, barking, yawning. Determined to understand the root cause so I could fix it, I did all I could do. Accepting something as general aging is not acceptable in my book.

As the days went by, the chattering seemed to diminish a little but was still present. Other neurological and pain symptoms started showing up, like dragging her legs a little when she walked.

Was it due to grains?

I ordered a NutriScan allergy test to see a food sensitivity was the root cause. I had recently re-introduced grains to her diet, so I was worried perhaps that was the problem, but taking the grains away didn’t change anything.  The test also came back negative on any grain allergy.

TMJ? Back pain?

We went to see our holistic vet who thought it was maybe her TMJ and then we went to a third vet for another opinion and that vet thought it was back pain related.  We went to laser therapy, but right there in the therapy room, just after the session had completed, I gave her a soft treat and her jaw chattered.

Canine Dental Specialist

Finally, we got in to see a Canine Dental Specialist at a specialty hospital. She was the fourth vet we saw about the chattering. She looked inside my little one’s mouth and didn’t see anything obvious, but said it was possible the jaw chattering was from dental pain. She said it was not a common response, but that it was possible. We had to wait a week to get in for x-rays to see if there was any evidence of periodontal disease and get treatment.

On the morning of her dental procedure I dropped her off at the specialty hospital and waited in the car in the parking lot across the street. The dentist called me as soon as she had the radiographs and told me there was a tooth at the very back of my dog’s mouth that had pretty advanced periodontal disease. She removed the tooth and a few hours later, my little one was ready to go home.

Chattering under general anesthesia

I was told that even under general anesthesia, my little girl’s jaw chattered when they touched the infected tooth. She had bone loss from the periodontal disease and the tooth was very loose and was hitting a nerve.

Even if you are perfect about brushing your dog’s teeth…

So even if you brush your dog’s teeth every single day, twice a day, even on vacation, and never ever miss, and your dog’s breath smells fresh and teeth appear to be clean and beautiful, your dog could still have periodontal disease.

Our dog’s mouths open to their bodies and with periodontal disease, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and affect vital organs. We can’t see what is going on below the gum line and it’s super hard to see those very back teeth.

The root cause wasn’t obvious

Looking back at it now, it seems obvious that a dental issue was the cause.  It was even my very first gut instinct, but at the same time,  it really wasn’t all that obvious at all. Our dentist even consulted with a canine neurologist on the topic because it was unusual.

I feel terrible that it took almost a month to get to the root cause, but I’m so grateful that we finally got there. Today my little girl is doing great, and her jaw chattering and all of her pain symptoms have gone away.

I hope our story inspires you to schedule a professional cleaning for your dog.  February is Dental Health Month, which is a month to bring awareness to the importance of not only your dog’s regular tooth brushing but also x-rays and professional cleanings for your dog’s mouth.  Healthy smiles are happy smiles!!

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