THURSDAY, Dec. 23 (HealthDay News) -- Cynthia Duggan was so surprised to learn her Australian shepherd puppy, Molly, needed dental braces that she hesitated to give her veterinarian the OK.
But after mulling over the $1,000 orthodontic procedure with her husband, the couple finally decided it would be money well spent.
"She's an incredible dog," said Duggan of the 9-month-old puppy, already showing potential as a herding champion. "We felt like she deserved it."
The braces weren't for appearances, though. Unlike braces for humans, who often endure an ugly mouth full of metal in pursuit of a perfect smile, canine braces aren't applied for cosmetic reasons. Instead these "oral appliances" alleviate pain or discomfort from an abnormal bite, usually caused by a few crooked teeth.
In Molly's case, a large upper tooth protruded like an elephant's tusk, preventing the pup from comfortably closing her tiny mouth, said Dr. Larry Baker, of Northgate Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Decatur, Ill.
To correct the problem, Baker attached a rubber band, called a power chain, to the wayward tooth, successfully pulling it back into place in just three weeks.
"She tolerated it well," said Duggan. "We were pretty thrilled with the way it turned out."
Baker has used metal braces on dogs, like the ones teenagers wear, but instead prefers to create his own from the material used to fill cavities in people.
"My dog braces do not typically look like human braces," explained Baker, one of only about 125 board-certified veterinary dentists in the world. "Yet, they accomplish the same result: moving teeth."
Dr. Daniel Carmichael, a board-certified veterinary dentist at the Animal Medical Center in New York City, said the critical ages for detecting orthodontic problems -- only some of which are corrected by braces -- are during the first several months of a d
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