Canine Teeth - All About Dogs

Canine Teeth


There are so many things to think about before you decide to bring home a new family member. Training and building a proper connection with the dog are essential. Also, feeding and grooming are very important and can be very demanding, especially oral hygiene.

Thus, early development of good oral hygiene is a big step in maintaining health and preventing dental disease in later life of your beloved pet.

Tooth eruption (development) in dogs

Dentition in dogs is actually very similar to human’s and is controlled mainly by genetic factors. However, environmental, infectious and traumatic factors play an important role in this process.

Dogs are toothless at birth. After 3 – 4 weeks, deciduous (milk) teeth start to grow gradually and are complete 2 months after birth. Permanent teeth are fully developed and functional 7 months after birth. 

Dogs have 28 deciduous (milk) teeth:

  • Over Mouth: 6 incisors, 2 canines, 2 × 3 molars (3 molars on each side).
  • When the puppy is about 12 weeks old, it completely loses milk teeth, which are replaced by permanent teeth.
  • While puppies have 28 teeth, the adult dog has 42 (the number may vary in some breeds. In addition, some dogs may be missing teeth).
  • The dog’s teeth are changed in stages. 

Dogs have the following teeth:

  • Incisors- six in the upper jaw and six in the lower jaw
  • Canines- they are large, curved and much larger in males than in females. The single root is longer than the crown
  • Premolars- they are irregular and closely-spaced
  • Molars- molars are broader than premolars

Change of teeth (dentition) in dogs

Photo credit: crumpart/Flickr

In most cases, the change of teeth passes smoothly. Nevertheless, it can cause pain and discomfort to the dog, which can also be very frustrating for the owner. Indications that your puppy is shedding teeth can be different. Usually, puppies are trying to chew on everything and anything. Also, they seek attention. If your pet displays such signs, make sure to buy plenty of chew toy. This will keep him it occupied and ease the pain. Also, it is very important that you monitor the process of teething and check whether inflammation has emerged.

Change of teeth in dogs is the same as in humans. In general, puppies start to lose their baby teeth around 8 to 12 weeks of age. The deciduous (milk) teeth start to resorb and finally fall out, making room for permanent teeth to come out. Incisors are the first to erupt, followed by the canines and the premolars. The last are the molars. This process should be finished by the end of the 8 months of age. However, the exact timing depends mainly on the dog’s breed and size. If not shed naturally, milk teeth can cause great damage to permanent teeth. So, in order to prevent possible dental problems, teeth are removed surgically.

Other Puppy Teething Symptoms

  • Gums are inflamed and reddened
  • Excessive salivation
  • High temperature or fever
  • Stomach pain
  • Diarrhea
  • Lack of sleep
  • Listlessness and agitation
  • Puppies will whimper, whine and howl

Dental caries in dogs

Dogs aren’t as susceptible to caries as people are because the spaces between their teeth are much larger. Also, the shape of teeth in dogs is substantially different from the tooth shape of human beings. Teeth in dogs are usually pointed, but some molars have a broad surface. Hence, molars are mostly affected by caries. On the other hand, canines are often unaffected.

Caries is promoted by several factors:

  • Enamel lesions on the chewing surfaces
  • Adherent plaque on the teeth
  • Pet foods containing a high carbohydrate content
  • Frequent or permanent provision of food

Periodontal disease (periodontitis) in dogs

Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in dogs. Periodontitis is an inflammation of tooth’s supporting structure and can be caused by many factors. The most common are the Streptococcus and Actinomyces bacteria. It starts by affecting one tooth, and if not treated in time, it can progress. After a while, the teeth and gums are starting to separate, forming periodontal pockets and causing bad breath, red and swollen gums, and pain. Hence, the notorious periodontitis arises. If the disease remains untreated, it will progress until the roots are exposed and even the jawbone is attacked. This usually leads to bone loss and severe tissue destruction. At this stage, the tooth is beyond saving.

The periodontal disease mainly affects adult dogs. Also, toy breeds are more susceptible to this disease, because they have crowded teeth. In addition, poor nutrition can also contribute to faster development of this particular condition.

Oral hygiene: 4 key tips for healthy teeth

Canine Teeth
Photo Credit: Andrew Zaragoza/Flickr

During teething, gum massage should be a daily routine

There are many things you can do to make puppy teething more tolerable for both you and your pet. Gum massage is one of them. Hence, gum massage can ease the pain that comes with teething. Try not to force anything, as patience is of great importance. Choose the moment when the dog is completely relaxed. Pat him on the nose and slowly slide your finger to its teeth, slowly massaging them. If a dog is a little uncomfortable, you can use soup or peanut butter in order to relax it completely. The dog must be used to it, without showing aggression.

Be sure to monitor teeth growth and progress of dentition

If teeth are developing the rule, around 8 – 12 weeks you will notice that the puppy has thin, sharp teeth like needles. These are milk teeth that will soon begin to fall out, leaving more room for new, stronger teeth (permanent). Tooth size and growth rate can vary, depending on the breed. Still, most dogs will have 42 teeth fully erupt around 7 – 8 months of age.

During this period, it is recommended to visit a vet. In addition, and possibly capture the jaw, because it will be the x-rays to see if the teeth grow properly.

Small breeds (such as Pekingese and Chihuahuas) are more susceptible to dental problems since their teeth tend to grow obliquely. This makes it rather difficult to feed the dog. As already mentioned above, sometimes it happens that the milk teeth do not fall out on time. Consequently, in order to free up space for permanent teeth, the intervention of the veterinarian is necessary. Keep in mind that the growth of new teeth can be very unpleasant and painful for the dog.

Proper nutrition is essential for healthy teeth

Puppies grow quickly into adult dogs, and they need high-quality food for proper development of the bone structure. Teeth are no exception. Keep in mind that the form of the food is as important as the quality. Dry granules are a good choice because they do not stick to the teeth, while the wet (canned) food tend to retain longer on the teeth. If your pet likes softer food, there’s no need to worry. On the contrary, wet food is a good source of hydration, which is especially beneficial for dogs that don’t drink enough water. The best solution is to mix the granules with wet food from cans. This will strike a balance.

After the meal, make it a habit of giving your dog a bone. Bones are an important source of natural calcium and provide a nice oral workout. Also, they will keep your pet’s teeth and gums healthy and its breath fresh. Beware that the bones are tested and approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council because the market is filled with ones that cause more harm than good.

Make it a habit to wash the dog’s teeth with a toothbrush

Regular brushing is truly necessary, so make sure to wash your pet’s teeth every day or at least several times a week. Otherwise, the bacteria on the teeth surface can cause caries or even deterioration of the gums. In addition, this can lead to more severe diseases, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Start simple, by showing the toothbrush to your pet. Let him sniff it and lick it. For starters, it is enough to clean the front teeth, without overthinking the results of cleansing. Hence, it is all about developing healthy habits. Since brushing teeth should be a positive experience, make sure to incorporate it in the evening game. This will make this daily routine more than pleasant.

It is of great importance that your puppy builds good habits that will last throughout its entire life. Oral hygiene and dental care are just one of them.

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