With so much to think about when caring for your pooch, dog teeth might not be top of the list. That said, dental health is extremely important to keep your dog happy and healthy. Just like us humans, poor dental health for dogs can lead to more serious problems like tooth loss, painful eating and a poor quality of life.
In our comprehensive guide to dog teeth, we’ll discuss puppy teeth, how many teeth dogs have and how to care for them throughout their life.
How many teeth does your dog have?
It’s pretty tricky trying to make sure your dog’s teeth are in order if you don’t know how many they’re supposed to have in the first place. Is it a standard 32 like humans? Or perhaps over 100 like the giant armadillo?
As you may already know, our dogs have more teeth than we do. Fortunately, they have far less than the armadillo, saving us plenty of time on tooth brushing!
Mature dogs, on average, have 42 teeth. As for the layout of their teeth, 20 of them are found at the top of their mouth, and the remaining 22 are on the bottom. If your dog is fully grown and doesn’t have 42 teeth, you may want to give the vet a visit to make sure they have no unerupted teeth.
Generally, if your pooch is missing a tooth or two, it’s due to carrying heavy or tough items in their mouth, such as sticks or rocks.
Dog teeth pattern
Similar to us humans, dogs have four types of teeth, all performing different functions.
These are the small teeth at the front of your dog’s mouth – and yours for that matter. Incisors are primarily used to scrape – helping your pooch get every last bit of meat off their bone. Incisors also come in handy for grooming. If your dog seems to be biting or nipping at themselves with their incisors, it may be a sign of fleas and ticks on their coat.
Perhaps the most recognisable teeth in your pooch’s mouth are their canines. They are long and pointed, found on either side of their incisors. Your pooch uses these teeth to tear food apart. They are also used to lock onto items in your dog’s mouth like their toys, making them even better at a tug of war.
Pre-molars are found behind your pooch’s canines. They’re used for chewing tough food and clamping onto their toys. With sharper edges than molars, these teeth are the main tool for shredding food before grinding it into bitesize pieces. If you spot your pooch with a toy in the side of their mouth, chances are the toy’s lifespan is about to get much shorter.
As with most mammals, molars are used to break down tough or hard foods into bitesize pieces to make it easier and safer to swallow. The majority of dogs gain most of their nutrients from a combination of dry and wet foods. Dog biscuits can easily be broken down using their molars, with the pre-molars taking care of any tougher treats. Their molars – all eight of them – are found behind the pre-molars, right at the back of your pooch’s mouth.
What about the carnassial?
If you’ve ever looked inside your pooch’s mouth or brushed their teeth, you may be wondering what the large tooth in the middle of their upper jaw is. This is known as the carnassial tooth, which pairs with another carnassial on the bottom. The two are specially shaped to pass by one another, helping dogs to crush, shear and hold. That’s why you may spot your pooch gripping on to chew toys – or your socks – with the side of their mouth.
Taking care of your puppy’s teeth
We teach children from a young age to look after their teeth and promote good dental health. Even though their puppy teeth will come and go, it’s an important time for you to get them used to you playing with their teeth and introducing them to a good dog dental routine.
When do puppies get teeth?
Like babies, puppies are born without teeth. That’s why they’re fed on milk until they reach a certain age. When puppies are around two weeks old, their puppy teeth start to erupt – expect to see around 28 sharp puppy teeth emerge. As they teeth, your pup will experience some discomfort. Also, worth noting, during this time expect full blown puppy breath. It’s a smell you’ll get used to and is normal during the teething process. If it drives you insane, you can rub a small amount of coconut oil around their gums – they’ll love this!
Slight discomfort is normal so you may notice your pup acting a little differently during this time. They should still be engaging in normal, everyday activities, such as grooming, eating, drinking and playing. If your pooch isn’t doing these things, and their quality of life is affected by their discomfort, then you may need to take them to a vet.
When do puppy teeth fall out?
Puppy teeth are only temporary which you’ll be thankful for as they’re particularly sharp – so watch those fingers. It’s widely believed that puppy teeth are sharp to help them learn how hard to bite. It’s crucial that you avoid rough play and make a mini yelp when they bite you, so your puppy understands that it hurts and learns to play gently. They’ll lose their puppy teeth gradually but expect to see their adult dog teeth emerge fully when they’re four months old.
When your pup starts to lose their teeth, it can be a stressful time for some pawrents. But most vets recommend letting your puppy’s teeth fall out naturally. Even if you notice a loose tooth, it’s important not to pull at it as this could cause an infection. Your pup’s teeth are embedded deep in their gums, with long roots holding them in place. These roots are fragile and can break if pulled too hard, being left behind to rot in their gums.
The only exception to this rule comes if an adult tooth is starting to come through before your pup has lost their original tooth. If that’s the case, you should arrange an appointment with your vet to have their baby tooth removed.
Dental care for puppies
Introducing your puppy to a good dental care routine is important and will save you and your pooch lots of stress in the long term. They may even grow to look forward to getting their teeth brushed.
As well as investing in natural chew toys that help them with the discomfort of teething, you should regularly get your fingers in his or her mouth, rubbing their teeth and gum to help them get used to the process. Whilst they don’t need to have their teeth brushed until they have adult teeth, it won’t hurt to introduce them to toothpaste and rub this on their teeth. Always use a toothpaste that is formulated for dogs and check that it’s OK for puppies.
What’s the difference between puppy and dog teeth?
As your puppy grows and develops into an adult pooch, their body goes through a number of changes. Their teeth are no different. The most obvious difference between puppy and adult teeth is that pups don’t have molars. As their diet doesn’t consist of large, hard particles, they don’t need as much chewing power.
Teeth can also indicate how far along the weaning process your pup is. Typically, as their teeth get too sharp, their mother will no longer feed them as their teeth can pinch and nip at her delicate skin. Your puppy will then seek other sources of food.
If you have your puppy and its mother in your care, the baby will start to look for food alternatives at around eight weeks. Once you notice this, you should introduce your pooch to puppy food.
Can you tell the age of a dog by looking at its teeth?
As mentioned, there are a few milestones for dog teeth that can be used to roughly determine their age. They get all their baby teeth by around eight weeks, with permanent teeth showing up at around four months of age. However, there are a few other signs to look out for later in life if you want to tell how old a dog is:
- Permanent dog teeth should all be in by seven months of age
- Dogs teeth stay white until they are around one year old
- Their back teeth become slightly dull between the ages of 1-3 years
- From 3-5 years all teeth will become slightly discoloured
- If a dog’s teeth show noticeable build-up and wear, they’re probably more than five years old
Recognising their individual needs
Dogs come in all different shapes and sizes. From large, working dogs to small teacup breeds, no two pets are the same. Their needs reflect this. A dog’s size doesn’t affect their likelihood of developing dental disease. But it can impact the type of issues they are more likely to suffer with.
Small dogs tend to suffer from plaque and dental calculus issues, especially those with short noses and cramped facial features, such as pugs. Lhasa Apsos are renowned for wonky teeth – we love Smudge to bits but her tiny mouth and wonky teeth make brushing her teeth a nightmare. If it isn’t monitored and taken care of effectively, this build up can lead to periodontal and gum disease.
Without caring for your dog’s teeth, you may end up having to send your pooch for an annual teeth clean at your vet. This will involve anaesthetic, which carries risks and considerable costs so it’s worth getting a good dental care routine in place for your dog to avoid needing to go to the vet.
Dog dental chews, chew toys and teeth brushing all form part of the perfect dog dental care routine. Remember, small breeds also have smaller teeth. If allowed to chew on toys or bones that are too hard, they may chip these delicate teeth, leaving them in pain and without the proper tools to eat effectively.
Larger dog teeth
On the other hand, larger breeds are more prone to severe dental injuries. As pawrents, we tend to allow larger dogs to play with bigger, tougher toys and may enjoy playing tug of war. This can increase their risk of damaging their teeth surfaces and tips and could even result in broken jaws.
Take care not to be too rough with your pooch, however big they may be. It’s fine to enjoy a game of fetch or two. Just avoid anything that may damage their teeth or dental health.
How to properly care for your dog’s teeth
Keeping your pooch’s teeth clean is as important as daily walks and healthy eating. Without proper care for your dog’s dental health, they can suffer from disease and poor wellbeing. Remember, if a dog loses an adult tooth, they can’t simply regrow it like a shark. But how can you make sure your pooch is healthy as can be?
Brushing your dog’s teeth
Just like you wouldn’t go a day without brushing your teeth, your pooch shouldn’t either. We have previously written about the importance of brushing your dog’s teeth. Of course, it takes some getting used to. But with persistent brushing and the right equipment, tooth brushing can become a regular feature in your dog’s daily routine.
Look out for signs of disease
Gum disease can develop over time or take your pooch – and you – by surprise suddenly. It’s important to be on the lookout for clear signs so you can get your pooch help for their ill-health sooner rather than later.
Bleeding gums is a clear sign. But you should try to avoid it getting that far. With daily tooth brushing, you may notice deposit build up on their teeth. If this doesn’t come off easily within a few days of gentle brushing, this could be a sign of dental disease.
Gum disease also makes it much harder to eat. So, your pooch may avoid meals, appear uncomfortable while eating or even leave specks of blood behind in their bowl. If you notice any of these, be sure to book an appointment with your vet as soon as you can to get their gums and teeth looked at.
Mouth cancer is another thing you should look out for with your pooch. Any swelling, lumps or unusual eating and playing behaviour should be noted and checked out.
Unlike us humans, dogs aren’t prone to cavities, likely due to their low-sugar diet and teeth shape. Like all things, prevention is better than cure. Employing a good oral care routine and sticking to healthy dog food and natural dog treats that avoid added nonsense like sugars will prevent your dog from getting a cavity. Should you spot a build-up of tartar or a cavity, you will need to take your pooch to the vet.
Maintaining a healthy diet
Diet is one of the most important aspects of your pooch’s life – keeping them at a healthy weight, maintaining a healthy lifestyle and preventing dangerous dental health issues. Choosing a dog food with natural ingredients and no unnecessary additives is the best way to ensure your pooch gets all the nutrients they need.
Dog dental sticks and chews
Dog dental sticks, like Gnashers, contain active ingredients clinically proven to reduce plaque. Be sure to check what else is in your dental chew though. We recently wrote about what’s in dentastix, and the answer is a lot of unnecessary additives.
Beyond dental chews, we recommend choosing a dog food with natural ingredients and no unnecessary additives. Always double-check the full ingredients list to avoid giving them any hidden nonsense. Watch out for ingredients like “vegetable stock” which typically contain added sugars and salts.
At Scrumbles, we recognise dogs’ individuality and design our dog and puppy food to meet their exact needs. Our recipes include everything your pooch needs to stay happy and healthy, and nothing more. Give our dog food a try with a personalised subscription box and be sure to let us know what you and your pooch think over on our Facebook page!
Whilst you're here, why not check out:
- Dog teeth cleaning and why it matters
- Bad Breath in Dogs, 7 Ways to Tackle It
- Dog Treats, Healthy or Harmful?