Pet parents often wonder about the anatomy and function of their dog’s mouth, frequently asking their vet about the number of teeth their pup has and the frequency with which they’ll lose baby teeth and gain their adult teeth. These answers may vary by breed, but it’s still worth having a basic understanding of your dog’s mouth.
Here are responses to common questions and recommendations for cleanings and general oral health:
What Are Teeth?
Teeth are hard calcified tissue (dentine), covered by enamel that develop inside the mouth and are anchored to the upper and lower jawbones. The upper jaw bone is called the maxilla and the lower jaw bone is the mandible. There is a row of teeth on both the upper and lower jawbones.
Each tooth consists of a crown and root (or roots). The crown is the part of the tooth that can be seen in the mouth, and the roots are located under the gum line, covered with gums and bone.
The function of dog teeth is to acquire food and break it down into small pieces once it enters the mouth. The different types of teeth provide different functions. For example, the sharp fang teeth (canine teeth) allow a dog to tear food, the front teeth (incisors) bite food, and the rear teeth (premolars and molars) help grind, break down, and mash the food.
Figure 1. Plastic model of a dogs mouth. The crown of the tooth is the part that can be seen in the mouth below the gums and the roots, or in some cases roots, is located under the gum line.
Dog Tooth Development
Dogs are born without teeth. At around 21 to 30 days of age, puppies will begin to get their puppy teeth, also known as temporary (deciduous) teeth. When these puppy teeth begin to break through the gums, it is referred to as the teeth “erupting” and can be painful or uncomfortable. The exact age that teeth begin to “erupt” may differ among breeds and can even vary within puppies of the same litter.
Just as with humans, dog baby teeth fall out eventually and are replaced with permanent teeth.
How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?
Exact dentition may vary with different breeds, but most dogs will end up with 42 adult teeth. Dogs will develop teeth in the front, sides, and back of the mouth.
The types of teeth include:
- Incisors. The teeth that develop in the front are called the incisors. There are 6 incisors on the upper and lower jaws.
- Canines. Just behind the incisor teeth are the canine teeth. These are the sharp “fang” teeth, and there is one canine tooth on each side of the set of incisors.
- Premolars. The premolar teeth sit behind the canine teeth and generally consist of four teeth on each side.
- Molars. The last set of teeth in the mouth are the molars. They sit just behind the premolars and generally consist of two teeth on either side of the upper jaw and three teeth on each side on the lower jaw.
Figure 2. Dental exam label commonly used in veterinary practices. The Upper is for the upper jaw and lower for the lower jaw. R = right, LL = left. I = incisions, C = canine, P = premolars, M = molars.
Do Dogs Have Wisdom Teeth?
Wisdom teeth are an extra set of molar teeth that come in sometime between the ages of 17 and 22 in humans. They typically aid in chewing, however, if there isn’t enough space in the mouth or if they are in the wrong position, they can become impacted. Fortunately, dogs do not have wisdom teeth.
When Do Dogs Get their Permanent (Adult) Teeth?
The eruption of the permanent teeth in dogs is as follows:
- Central: 2-5 months
- Intermediate: 2-5 months
- Corner: 4-5 months
- 5 months
- First: 4-5 months
- Second: 6 months
- Third: 6 months
- Fourth: 4-5 months
- First: 5-6 months
- Second: 6-7 months
- Third: 6-7 months
Dog teeth cleaning can begin once the adult teeth have fully formed. Puppy teeth are still growing and are generally much more delicate than adult teeth. Once all of the adult teeth have grown in, you can begin dog teeth cleaning two to three times per week.
3 Common Oral Diseases in Dogs
There are a number of diseases that affect the teeth of dogs. The most common are:
- Tooth root abscesses. A tooth root abscess is an infection that occurs around the tooth root, most commonly developing in the upper fourth premolar. A classic sign of tooth root abscess is an accumulation of pus around the root of the tooth. These abscesses can create a draining tract beneath the eye or on the cheek that can break open.
- Gingivitis. Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum surrounding the tooth.
- Periodontal disease. This is an inflammation of the tooth’s support structures, including the associated gum ligament and bone.