May 29

Dog Teeth

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Updated: May 29, 2021

You might be thinking - Why do I need to know about dog teeth?


Turns out, dog teeth are actually one of the more important factors in a dog's life - alongside they general health, training, and diet.


And dogs use their teeth on a whole bunch of things - food, play, eating, you, your clothes, and your furniture.


But on a serious note, knowledge on dog teeth is important - it's a part of a dog's life that they cannot actively clean for themselves (especially when there's tartar buildup, or some form of tooth decay hurting them!)


Apart from training and a dog's nutrition, the next important thing to care for would be your dog's teeth - they live and die on them. 

The condition of their teeth make a HUGE difference in the quality of life for your dogs, so make sure you don't neglect them!


But before that, we need to go over the basics of dog teeth first - what types there are, and how many they have.



If you already know or you just want to skip ahead to the how-to parts, you can find them right here:


Original image courtesy of the Colorado State University.

Types of Dog Teeth


There are 4 main types of dog teeth - each with different purposes.


Incisors 

The small teeth in the front of your dog’s mouth, used to tear meat from a bone and for self-grooming. Your dog has a total of 12 incisors, six on the top and six on the bottom.


Canines 

These are the pointy teeth on the top and bottom of both sides of the mouth, sometimes referred to as “fangs.” These four teeth, two on top and two on the bottom, are used to puncture and hold on to something and are what make dogs so good at tug-of-war.


Premolars

Located behind the canine teeth, these 16 teeth (eight on top and eight on the bottom) are used for shearing. If you catch your dog chewing on something with the side of his mouth, he’s using his premolars.


Molars

These flat, heavy-duty teeth are found in the back of the mouth and are used for grinding and chewing. You’ll find four molars on the top of your dog’s mouth and six on the bottom.


So, how many teeth do dogs have?

Puppy Teeth

Type of Teeth

Upper Teeth (Number)

Lower Teeth (Number)

Age of Eruption (weeks)

Function

Incisors

6

6

4 - 6

Grasping

Canines

2

2

3 - 5

Tearing

Premolars

6

6

5 - 6

Grinding

Puppies have less teeth than adults, and will of course, grow over time. 

The numbers above are typical for most puppies - though it might not be completely strange to see some dogs maybe missing one or two of these teeth. It's generally not an issue - they'll still develop and grow out their normal adult teeth later on in life.

Puppies also don't grow their molars until adulthood, when they hit about 6 months to 1 year of age, depending on the breed.


Puppies are born without any teeth, and remain toothless until about 3 to 4 weeks of age, just slightly before being fully weaned off their mother's milk.

At 3 to 4 weeks old, they gain their puppy teeth (aka deciduous teeth) and more will grow soon after.

Usually, their teeth will fully grow in about 8 weeks later, according to Dr. Rachel Barrack.

However, for some smaller sized dogs (such as the toy breeds and the small sized dog breeds) their teeth tend to take longer to develop puppy and adult teeth.

Oh, they're also really sharp, so watch yourself around puppy teeth - they will draw blood easily, although not on purpose, they're still trying to get accustomed to life and using their teeth for play!


Caveat about puppy teeth

Sometimes, puppy teeth don't always fall on their own and can stay in place inside your puppy's mouth, which can lead to retained teeth.

This might be an issue with some dogs, as it can lead to an overcrowding of teeth in dogs, which causes abnormal positioning of their teeth, and thus, increased chance of having dental problems.

Typically, you can tell if they have some baby teeth by some pretty obvious symptoms:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Abnormal positioning of their permanent teeth
  • Obvious baby teeth sticking out near  or beside the adult teeth 
  • Swollen, red, or bleeding gums around their puppy teeth
  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease due to overcrowding of teeth in the mouth
  • A permanent abnormal passage between the mouth and nasal cavity (i.e. a hole that connects the mouth and nose). It's known as an oronasal fistula.

This is especially common in small and toy dog breeds, so make sure you periodically check your dog's mouth if there are any retained teeth!


Any baby teeth that doesn't fall out by the time the adult teeth are in place has to be extracted by a vet for the reasons above.


Adult Teeth

Type of Teeth

Upper Teeth (Number)

Lower Teeth (Number)

Age of Eruption (months)

Function

Incisors

6

6

2 - 5

Grasping

Canines

2

2

5 - 6

Tearing

Premolars

8

8

4 - 7

Grinding

Molars

4

6

4 - 6

Grinding


Unlike humans, puppies growing will lose their baby teeth quite quickly thanks to their rapid maturation.

Depending on the breed, the incisors usually fall out by around 4 months of age, followed by their canines, at around 5 - 6 months.

Their premolars will fall anywhere from 4 - 7 months, and you'll see their molars growing out anytime from 4 - 6 months typically, according to Dr. Lucas White.



Do Dogs lose teeth naturally?


Aside from losing their baby teeth and transitioning to their adult teeth, it's completely NOT normal for a dog to lose any of their adult teeth!

If you notice your dog losing their adult teeth, you need to call your vet ASAP and get that looked at immediately!

There are typically a few reasons why dogs will lose their teeth (and these are not considered natural ways of loss):


Periodontal disease


Periodontal disease in dogs (aka gum disease in dogs) is probably one of the most common dental diseases that vets see in dogs.

Usually over 80% of dogs by the age of three have some form of active dental disease.


Not many dogs show any obvious signs of periodontal disease, so its usually up to the owners to actively check their dogs for any signs of discomfort in your dog's mouth (typically, bad breath is one of the common indicators of something happening)


The worst thing bout periodontal disease in dogs is that it is completely preventable if you have proper dental care for your dogs - brushing their teeth and vet-scheduled dental cleanings - but these are typically seen as unimportant.


And it can lead to diseased gums and decaying teeth.

As their teeth decays, it can be uncomfortable and even painful for your dog. 


Any dental disease, including periodontal disease has also be associated with damaging effects on other organs like the heart, kidney, and liver.

The worst case scenario - the blood infection in the dog's mouth can potentially travel elsewhere in the body and become dangerously life-threatening!


Trauma


Some dogs like to play rough - either with other dogs, or with their toys (typically the tug ropes).

And sometimes, they can pay so rough that they might fracture their teeth, or completely lose their teeth if they embed it in a material that they can't get it out of.


To prevent this from happening, ensure that your dog's toys are not extremely hard, and that you limit their intake of beef or pork bones, unless they've been seasoned with eating those types of hard food.



Tooth Decay


Tooth decay in dogs is somewhat of an extension of the dental disease in dogs mentioned earlier.

In general dogs' teeth are tougher than our own, but due to their heavy usage either in play, picking things up, or just in eating food, they are also more prone to wear and tear.


To treat decayed teeth, vets will usually put your dog under general anesthesia to remove the decayed tooth or teeth. Afterward, they'll also proceed with a dental cleaning of your dog's teeth (which is similar to how we humans clean ours at the dentist).


This is a common procedure at any vet clinic or major animal hospital - and this should also be a part of your dog's life. 


Make sure you schedule your dog's dental cleaning about twice a year (which is also about the number that humans need per year for maintenance)


NOTE: Small dog breeds like chihuahuas and greyhounds have tooth decays at a far faster rate, and will usually require more observation if they experience any discomfort in their mouths.

Summary


Sometimes having a dental care plan for your dog, even if it's a lax one, can save your dog's life down the road!

Convinced that your dog's teeth are far more important than you thought?


Next up, you'll know to know what's the best ways to take care of your dog's teeth.

If so, head over to our next article on how to clean your dog's teeth.


See you there!


about the author

Frank Harrigan

Frank loves tacos and dogs - the good, bad and ugly sides of dog ownership.


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