If you look into your dog’s mouth, you see some pretty formidable teeth.
You know they crunch hard treats and gnaw on bones. If you see him catch a ball or shake a toy, you have a good idea how well he can hold on with those teeth. Play a quick game of tug-of-war with your dog, you he’ll quickly demonstrate how strong the teeth are.
Here are some doggy dental facts and tips:
Puppies are born with no teeth. They first get their teeth when they’re about 4 weeks to 6 weeks old. These first teeth, sometimes called “milk teeth”, are very sharp. Nursing becomes painful for their mother, which encourages her to wean the puppies.
Puppies have 28 baby teeth. They start losing their baby teeth at about 3 months old and should have all their permanent teeth by the time they’re 6 to 9 months old. Adult dogs typically have 42 teeth (21 in the upper jaw and 21 in the lower jaw), although the number can vary slightly by breed.
Dogs have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars (also called carnassials), and molars. The premolar is a large tooth in the middle of the jaw, and its job is to shear, crush and hold. That’s why you’ll see your dog gnawing on a bone at the side of his mouth.
Dogs’ teeth need to be cleaned. Hard food and treats, especially those specifically made for teeth cleaning, can help. But you should brush your dog’s teeth as well. Get a toothbrush made for a dog. Use toothpaste specially formulated for dogs as well: most human toothpaste contains fluoride, which can be poisonous to dogs.
Possible Tooth, Mouth and Gum Issues
Dogs rarely get cavities, and tooth decay isn’t really an issue for dogs. Smaller dogs are prone to tartar and plaque build-up which can lead to gum and periodontal disease. Their small teeth may chip or even break if they’re given too hard of substances to chew.
Larger dogs tend to suffer from more traumatic injuries to their mouths: fractured tips of their teeth, worn teeth, or broken jaws. If the teeth get worn down too far, the roots of their teeth can be exposed, which can be very painful. Larger dogs can also be plagued by plaque and tartar just like their smaller brethren.
Dogs can get gum disease, which can result in painful gums and can even cause dogs to lose teeth. Dogs can also get mouth cancer.
How You Can Check Your Dog
You should open your dog’s mouth and check out his teeth on a regular basis. Check for discolored teeth: dark yellow, brownish, or greenish color can indicate buildup which can damage his gums.
Check his gums to see if they are swollen, bright red, and/or bleeding. Note any teeth that seem lose or if any are missing. Also look for any sores or growths in his mouth or on his lips.
Check for “doggie breath.” A healthy dog’s breath should be odor-free or even slightly pleasant—certainly not offensive. Bad breath can be a sign of bacterial infection that may not only be affecting his mouth, but his heart and kidneys as well.
If you see any abnormality in your dog’s mouth or if his breath is very bad, take him to the vet. The earlier you catch any serious health issues your dog has, the better the chance for a complete recovery.
Your dog’s teeth need to last him his lifetime. With proper care from you and regular dental check-ups as part of his routine well-dog check-ups at the vet, you can help keep his teeth clean and healthy for his entire life.