How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

Pet parents may wonder about their dog’s normal anatomy, physiology, and function. This may include questions about their teeth if they get baby teeth, when they may lose them, and about their adult teeth. A particular interest “how many teeth do dogs have” is a common question.

First, what are teeth? Teeth are hard calcified tissue (dentine) covered by enamel that develops inside the mouth and are anchored to the upper and lower jaw bones. The upper jaw bone is called the maxilla and the lower jaw bone is the mandible. There is a row of teeth on each the upper and lower jaw bones.

Each tooth consists of a crown and root (or roots). The crown is the part that can be seen in the mouth and the root or roots are located under the gum line and are covered with gums and bone (figure 1). Learn more about the structure and function of the teeth, gums, and tongue.

how many teeth do dogs have

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.

The function of dog teeth is to acquire food and to break it down into small pieces once it enters the mouth. The different type of teeth (figure 2) provide different functions. For example, the sharp fang teeth (the canine teeth) allow a dog to tear food. The front teeth (the incisors) generally bite food, and the rear teeth (premolars and molars) help grind, break down or mash the food.

how many teeth do dogs have

Figure 2. Plastic model of a dogs mouth indicating the location of the incisors, canines, premolars, and molars.

Dog Tooth Development

Dogs are born without teeth. At approximately 21 to 30 days of age, puppies will begin to get their baby teeth, also known as the deciduous or temporary teeth. When these teeth begin to break through the gums, it is referred to as the teeth erupting or teething phase. This can be painful or uncomfortable. The exact age may differ amongst breeds and can even vary within puppies of the same litter. Learn more about this and when the individual teeth come in this article: Do Dogs Have Baby Teeth.

Just like with people, eventually, the baby teeth fall out and are replaced with the permanent teeth. Dogs’ exact dentition may vary with the breed and even differ between dogs within the breed. Most dogs will end up with 42 adult or permanent teeth.

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

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 jaw.
Canines – Just behind the incisor teeth are the canine teeth. These are the sharp “fang” teeth. There is one canine tooth on each side of the set of incisors. There are two upper canines and two lower canine teeth.
Premolars – The premolar teeth sit behind the canine teeth and generally consist of 4 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 2 teeth on the upper jaw and 3 teeth on each side on the lower jaw.

how many teeth do dogs have

Figure 3. 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?

Humans have wisdom teeth, but dogs do not have wisdom teeth. Wisdom teeth are an extra set of molar teeth that come in sometime between the ages of 17 and 22. They can aid chewing, however if there isn’t enough space in the mouth or if they are in the wrong position, they can become impacted.

When Do Dogs Get their Permanent (Adult) Teeth?

The eruption of the permanent teeth in dogs is as follows:

Incisors

  • Central: 2-5 months
  • Intermediate: 2-5 months
  • Corner: 4-5 months

Canine

  • 5 months

Premolars

  • First: 4-5 months
  • Second: 6 months
  • Third: 6 months
  • Fourth: 4-5 months

Molars

  • First: 5-6 months
  • Second: 6-7 months
  • Third: 6-7 months

3 Common Diseases of the Teeth in Dogs

There are a number of diseases that affect the teeth of dogs with the most common being the following:

  • Tooth root abscesses – A tooth root abscess is an infection that occurs around the tooth root. They most commonly develop in the upper fourth premolar. A classic sign on physical examination is an accumulation of pus around the root of the tooth. Tooth root abscesses can create a draining tract beneath the eye or on the cheek that can break open and drain. A common presentation of a tooth root abscess is a painful facial swelling that develops on the check and breaks open draining pus. Learn more about Tooth Root Abscess in Dogs.
  • Gingivitis – Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum surrounding the tooth. Learn more about Gingivitis in Dogs.
  • Periodontal disease – This is an inflammation of the tooth’s support structures, including the associated gum ligament and bone. Learn more about Periodontal Disease in Dogs.

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Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

Tooth root abscesses are infections that occur around the tooth root. They most commonly develop in the upper fourth premolar tooth, also known as the carnassial tooth. Once the infection develops around the root and between the skull bone, it is difficult for the body to fight infection in this location. As the infection builds, it often creates a draining tract through the skin on the cheek or below the eye. The skin is the weakest on this portion of the body in this area.

A classic sign of a tooth root abscess on physical examination is a swelling or draining wound beneath the eye that can break open and drain. The swelling can often be the size of a golf ball. When left alone, the opening can sometimes close and reopen as the pocket of infection reaccumulates.

Tooth root abscesses can occur in dogs of any age or sex. Most dogs improve in 48 to 72 hours with appropriate early treatment of the condition.

What to Watch For

  • Signs of tooth root abscessation usually occur suddenly and include:
  • Swelling of tissues below the eye or on the cheek
  • Pain upon opening the mouth
  • Not eating (due to pain) or reluctance to chew hard food
  • Crying when chewing
  • Lymph node enlargement
  • Lethargy
  • Fever

Diagnosis of Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

A thorough exam is performed including the evaluation of the face including the eyes, nose, and mouth. Attempts may be made to examine the mouth, but this may be too painful for your pet and may have to be performed under sedation. Often, a physical examination is all that is needed to diagnose tooth root abscessation. In some cases, additional diagnostics may be required and may include:

  • Complete blood count
  • Biochemical profile
  • Urinalysis
  • X-rays of the mouth and teeth

Treatment of Tooth Root Abscesses in Dogs

Treatment is aimed at eliminating the infection and treating the underlying dental problem. In mild cases, antibiotics and pain medications are usually started both orally, however definitive treatment includes a dental cleaning and care of the infected tooth which may include extraction or endodontic treatment (total pulpectomy and root canal filling). Endodontic treatment is generally treated in multiple appointments. Most dogs respond to treatment and improve in 48 to 72 hours.

If the signs are severe or worsen, dental cleaning and care may be treated as an emergency and performed within 24 to 72 hours following diagnosis. General anesthesia is needed for this procedure.

Common prescriptions may include:

  • Carprofen is commonly given for relief of pain and inflammation. This is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Do not administer this medication with steroids. This medication may have gastrointestinal side effects so please do not administer this medication if your dog is vomiting, having diarrhea, or refusing food.
  • A variety of antibiotics may be prescribed. One commonly prescribed antibiotic for oral infections is Clindamycin which is generally given twice daily.
  • Do not give human pain medications to animals at any time without the approval of your veterinarian.

Home Care and Prevention for Canine Tooth Root Abscess

  • If your dog is painful and has a draining wound from the face, a veterinary examination is recommended immediately. Once a dental abscess is diagnosed and treatment has been started, all medications must be continued at home exactly as prescribed. Such medications may include topical antibiotics or local wound care, oral antibiotics, and oral pain medications.
  • Your veterinarian may also ask you to apply warm, wet compresses to wound three to four times per day for several days to reduce swelling and encourage drainage. Offer soft foods to help your pet eat until the swelling and pain have diminished.
  • To reduce the risk of tooth root abscessation discuss the best dental care plan for your dog with your veterinarian. Daily tooth brushing and periodic dental cleaning may be the best prevention strategy.

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