A malocclusion is the abnormal alignment of teeth. One particular type of malocclusion that can be seen in puppies is base narrow k9 teeth. This is when the k9 teeth on the lower jaw are too close together, or the lower jaw is too short causing the k9 to contact the upper jaw abnormally. In severe cases, these lower k9 teeth will puncture into the hard palate causing pain, damage and infection. For these severe cases, treatment will require extraction of the teeth causing trauma. In milder cases, in which no major damage is occurring, we can use ball therapy to attempt to correct the malocclusion as the puppy grows.
The concept of ball therapy is very simple. Dogs should be encouraged to carry an appropriate sized ball in the mouth just behind the canine teeth. The presence of the ball applies force to the canine teeth– essentially acting like a retainer, training the teeth into a more appropriate position. The ball should be a smooth rubber ball appropriately sized for the puppy – good examples include: rubber balls, Kong™ toys or road hockey balls. Your veterinarian can guide you on the appropriate sized ball for your puppy. Tennis balls should NOT be used as the outer covering is very abrasive and can cause dental wear.
Unfortunately, ball therapy will not prove to be effective for all puppies with malocclusions, but the risk is very low in attempting this method. Some puppies with malocclusions will require veterinary dental procedures to help correct their bites.