Oral health issues are fairly common in dogs over the age of 3. That's why it's critical to monitor your dog's teeth. Our Seattle vets share the number of teeth your dog should have and why they may be losing teeth.
How Many Sets of Teeth Do Dogs Have?
As your dog matures from a puppy into an adult dog, the number of teeth in their mouth will change.
While puppies are born without teeth, their puppy teeth will start to emerge at around 3 to 4 weeks old. By the time they reach 3 to 5 months of age, they will usually have all 28 of their puppy teeth, including incisors, canines and pre-molars. This is the same number of teeth humans should have if they have their wisdom teeth removed.
Now that you know how many teeth your puppy has, your next question is likely, "How many teeth do adult dogs have?". By the time they reach 3 to 7 months of age, your dog's adult teeth should start to erupt. An adult dog should have 42 permanent teeth, compared to humans who have 32 teeth if they do not have their wisdom teeth extracted.
There are 20 teeth in an adult dog's upper jaw, and 22 in their lower jaw.
Types of Dog Teeth
There are four types of teeth in a dog's mouth, including incisors, canines, pre-molars and molars. Each of these serves its own purpose. Below, we explain what each type of tooth does and where these are located in your dog's mouth.
The incisors are the teeth you see in the front of your dog's "smile". These small teeth sit directly in front of both the upper and lower portion of the jaw, and are used for scraping at bits of meat. Your dog also uses them to groom their coat.
The canines or "fangs" are behind the incisors. These pairs of long, pointed and extra sharp teeth are in both the upper and lower jaw. Canine teeth hold onto objects and tear into meat. Dogs also bare these teeth if they're feeling defensive or threatened, which is why understanding canine body language is essential. Showing teeth is rarely a friendly gesture in the animal kingdom.
The wide pre-molars, or carnassials, are located on either side of a dog's upper and lower jaw. These teeth are relatively sharp and do a lot of shredding and chewing.
The flat molars are located at the very back of your dog's mouth and are used to crunch treats, kibble and other hard objects.
Why Dogs Lose Teeth
Dogs do lose teeth when they go from puppy teeth to adult teeth (yes, dogs lose their baby teeth. No, we cannot confirm or deny if the tooth fairy collects puppy teeth). Other than losing their puppy teeth, it is not normal for a dog to lose teeth. If you notice that your dog is losing their adult teeth, you should contact your vet and schedule a dental appointment.
Here are the most common reasons for a dog to lose their adult teeth.
- Periodontal Disease - The most common reason for a dog to lose teeth is because of advanced dental disease in their mouth. Without proper dental care—like brushing and veterinary dental cleanings—periodontal disease can lead to diseased gums and decaying teeth.
- Trauma - Your dog’s teeth can be lost through the process of trauma—whether it’s caused by chewing something or they sustain another injury to their mouth. Some of the most common items that can cause fractures or loss of teeth are made from dense mineral or bone material. To protect your dog’s teeth, it is best to avoid giving your dog things such as beef bones or pork bones, as these materials can be too hard and commonly results in fractures and tooth damage.
- Tooth Decay - Dogs’ teeth are prone to decay and wear and tear at a much faster rate than our own. They use their teeth to pick things up, carry things and chew things. In addition, a lot of things pass through a dog’s mouth, like slobbery toys, hair, dirt, feces and food. All of this can take a toll on the health of their teeth. Some dogs (especially small breed dogs and Greyhounds) experience tooth decay at an extraordinarily fast rate, requiring many teeth to be extracted by a vet throughout their lifetime.
How To Prevent Dogs From Losing Their Teeth
By the time they're 3 years old, more than 80 percent of dogs will develop some type of periodontal condition, including gingivitis. This means your dog's teeth need to be brushed regularly to prevent dental disease (just like their humans). Giving your pup dental chews is a good idea, and you'll need to take him to the vet for a thorough cleaning every so often, too.
If you notice that your dog seems to have trouble chewing or you have other concerns about their teeth or mouth (including bad breath!), talk to your vet to find the right course of action to keep those teeth healthy.
If you notice that your dog is losing teeth, has loose or wiggly teeth, or has progressively worsening breath, please set up a consultation with a veterinarian as soon as possible. Even if it seems like they just lost one tooth, it is likely that your pet has more diseased teeth in their mouth causing discomfort that would benefit from removal. Don’t wait until your pet is not eating to get a dental consult with your veterinarian. Ask during your pet’s annual exam about your dog’s teeth and overall dental health before there is a problem.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.