Furcation Defect
Oral Health

April 2009
Dr Gerhard Steenkamp

While assessing a dog’s mouth before you start to scale and polish it, you are able to perform the following with your explorer:

 Furcation Defect April 2009-01  

The explorer passes under the crown of the 4th premolar tooth and is visible on the inside of the oral cavity (Yellow arrow)
a) What is the cause of defect?
b) How are these defects classified?
c) What treatment options are available for these defects?


a) Periodontal disease is characterized by the loss of bone around teeth.  The furcation area is that area between the roots of the tooth (multirooted teeth) where they join onto the crown.  As bone is lost due to periodontal disease the furcation area is not spared and bone loss occurs there as well.

b) Furcation defects are classed as:

0 The furcation area is not visible and radiographically there is no boneloss in this area.

1 There is gingival recession that exposes the furcation are, but no bone loss visible radiographically

2 Gingival recession may be present but there is boneloss present as the explorer can enter under the crown, but some bone prevents the explorer to go all the way under the crown to the medial aspect of the tooth.  Bone loss may be visible radiographically

3 A through-and-through defect, meaning there is gingival recession and enough bone is lost to allow the explore to enter from the lateral aspect of the tooth and go all the way to the medial aspect of the tooth 

 Furcation Defect April 2009-02  

A grade 3 furcation defect on this cats mandibular molar (marked with yellow a), compared to the 4th mandibular premolar where there is no radiographic evidence of a furcation defect

c) 0 None
1 &
2 After thorough scale and polish advise increased oral hygiene including a chlorhexidine oral rinse.

3 In the majority of these case extractions will be the only option.  If the defect is very small with no mobility on the tooth, and the owner and dog is very good, the area can be brushed daily with an interdental brush.  This will remove any buildup of plaque and therefore arrests the periodontal disease at the stage where it is at.


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