This post is written by guest author, Britt Kascjak, from Shed Happens.
Your dog’s dental care is a very important part of their overall health, with the ability to impact nearly every part of their body. What many pet owners don’t realize is how a dog’s dental health is incredibly similar to our own!
As dog parents, we know our pups better than anyone. We can point out their favorite spot to be pet, identify their ‘hungry’ bark and explain why they prefer one toy over another. However, our dog’s teeth are often still a mystery. If you’ve ever wondered, ‘how many teeth does a dog have?’ and “what can I do to help take care of my dog’s teeth?’, then this is for you!
Today, we’re going to look at the basics of dog dental care and how you can make your dog’s dental health a priority.
Dogs Have 42 Teeth
The first step to take care of your dog’s dental health is to understand what you are working with. This includes learning how many teeth are in your dog’s mouth at each stage of his life.
Like babies, puppies are born without any visible teeth and go through the teething process as their puppy teeth come in. This usually starts around the age of three to four weeks, after which they make the transition from nursing to eating solid food. In total, your puppy will have 28 temporary or baby teeth.
Known as deciduous teeth, this first set of teeth is temporary and will eventually be replaced by his adult teeth. However, don’t let this fact stop you from starting to work on your puppy’s dental care at an early age! The earlier that you introduce your pup to a toothbrush and how it is used, the easier the process will be as he gets older.
Going back to the original question, how many teeth does a dog have? A full-grown adult dog will have 42 adult teeth including 20 teeth on the upper jaw and 22 teeth on the lower jaw.
How Long Do Puppy Teeth Last?
Your dog’s adult teeth will come in stages based on the type of tooth. Therefore, to dig into the question of how long puppy teeth last, we must first learn about the teeth themselves. As your dog’s adult teeth grow in, they will push the temporary puppy teeth out of place which will eventually lead to them falling out. You may even see your puppy’s teeth in his favorite play area or bed.
Occasionally, a puppy tooth will stay in place with the adult truth growing around it. If you notice this happening, you should contact your veterinarian as your dog may need to have the puppy tooth removed to allow for all their permanent teeth to come in and line up properly.
The first teeth to come in, and therefore the first teeth that your puppy will lose, the incisors. Incisors are the small teeth located in the very front of your dog’s mouth. An adult dog will have a total of 12 incisors, 6 each on the top and 6 on the bottom. These are the teeth that are used to rip meat free from the bone, as well as for grooming purposes. Your dog’s adult incisors will come in around the age of 12 to 16 weeks.
The next time that you see your dog chewing at his leg as if trying to scratch an itch, he is putting his incisors to work. This biting action is used to remove unwanted ‘guests’ from his coat, such as fleas, ticks, parasites, burrs, or even clumps of mud that have stuck to the fur.
The next teeth to grow in are the large pointy teeth at the front of your dog’s mouth called the canines, otherwise referred to as ‘fangs’. They are the teeth that grow near the front corners of the mouth, 2 each on the top and bottom, and extend longer than the rest of their teeth.
Canines are used to puncture and lock onto an item both when hunting in the wild as well as when grabbing onto a bone or tug-toy. Like the incisors, the adult canines will become visible, growing in when your dog is around 4 to 5 months old.
After you have seen your dog lose their incisors and canines, you will notice its adult premolars growing in. In total, an adult dog will have 16 premolars, 8 each on the top and bottom directly behind the canines. They have sharp edges designed to shred and chew food, breaking it apart into smaller pieces for digestion. The premolars will come in approximately 4 to 6 months of age.
Finally, the molars are located at the back of your dog’s mouth just as you would see in our own mouths. There are a total of 4 molars on the top and 6 on the bottom in an adult dog. Your dog’s molars grind up the food that they have eaten so that it can be easily digested. The permanent molars are the final teeth to grow in, coming in at approximately 5 to 7 months of age.
Adult Dog Teeth Loss
If you have an adult dog over the age of 7 months old, they should have all their permanent adult teeth which will remain with them for the remainder of their lives. This means that any dental problems from this point forward will have a lifelong impact on your pup. This is why it is important to make your dog’s mental health a priority from a young age.
Adult dog teeth loss can be caused by a variety of different factors ranging from an accident or injury to a more serious health complication.
If possible, you should take preventative steps to avoid dental complications such as providing your dog with dental toys and brushing his teeth to remove harmful plaque and tartar. However, not every cause for finding adult dog teeth loose can be prevented.
Some warning signs that your dog may be experiencing dental complications include:
- Broken or loose teeth
- Bad breath
- Abnormal chewing, chewing to one side, dropping food during chewing
- Excessive drooling
- Reluctance or refusal to eat or drink
- Bleeding or swelling in or around the mouth
If you notice any of these signs, contact your veterinarian. Not only will they be able to diagnose the cause of your dog’s dental problems, but they can also describe any options available for both immediate and long-term relief.
Common Causes of Adult Dog Teeth Loss
Occurring when dental plaque builds up and causes damage to the surface of your dog’s tooth, tooth decay can lead to cavities or dental abscesses. If the infection of the tooth is allowed to progress far enough, the tooth may fall out.
The bacteria involved with tooth decay can lead to very serious consequences if not addressed. If this type of infection is allowed to find its way into your dog’s bloodstream it can cause a condition called bacteremia in which the bacteria is then transported to your dog’s vital organs, potentially leading to a fatal occurrence of sepsis (or blood infection).
In short, it may cause life-threatening damage to your dog’s organs and should be addressed as soon as possible after discovering that there is a problem.
While tooth decay leads to infection in the tooth itself, periodontal disease refers to an infection or inflammation in the gums and the bone. This is the most common cause of adult dog teeth loss and will be experienced by over 80% of dogs aged three and older during their lifetime.
This common condition starts as gingivitis, which many dog owners are most familiar with in relation to their own oral health. Much like in humans, the early signs of gingivitis include redness and swelling along the gums, bad breath, and bleeding from the gums from brushing his teeth.
Periodontal disease carries the same serious risks as tooth decay if not addressed.
Injury or Trauma
If you notice that your dog’s teeth are loose or have broken off, it may be due to an accident or injury causing trauma to his mouth. This can happen because of a wide range of different events ranging from a more serious injury from a car accident to simply chewing on something that was dense or hard like an antler, fracturing or breaking a tooth.
Any sign of trauma to your dog’s face should be addressed by a veterinarian as soon as possible as there may be other damage below the surface that can’t be seen by the naked eye. This will also give your veterinarian the opportunity to provide your pup with relief from any pain caused by their broken tooth.
While there is no 100% guaranteed way to prevent this kind of trauma from occurring (they are called ‘accidents’ for a reason), there are steps that you can take to lower the risk. The most effective way to prevent trauma breakage is to avoid giving your dog items that are too hard or dense, opting instead for slightly softer dental-friendly chews.
Knowledge is Power
As any dog parent will tell you, the real secret to keeping your dog healthy and happy is to learn as much as you can. If you ever have a question, regardless of how silly or obvious it may seem, your veterinarian and their team will be there to help you. You may even be surprised to hear that they are asked questions like ‘how many teeth does a dog have?’ all the time!
Your dog’s oral health is an important part of their overall health and well-being. Sign-up for Pet Health 5 and we’ll remind you each month to check 5 stats on your dog, including their teeth and gums.
If you notice that your dog has loose or wiggly teeth, bad breath, or any other sign of dental problems, don’t delay. Contact your veterinarian and discuss the best next steps. The earlier these conditions are addressed, the sooner you can provide your pup with relief from any pain or discomfort and prevent more serious complications.
Have you ever experienced dental health problems with your dog? If so, what were the first signs that you noticed? Feel free to share your experiences in the comments!
About the Author: Britt is a proud pet mom, sharing her heart (and her home) with her ‘pack’ which includes her husband John, their 3 dogs – Daviana, Indiana, and Lucifer – and their 2 cats – Pippen and Jinx. She has been active in the animal rescue community for over 15 years, volunteering, fostering and advocating for organizations across Canada and the US. In her free time, she enjoys traveling around the country camping, hiking, and canoeing with her pets.