Gum disease is very common in dogs, affecting 80% of dogs over the age of three. Looking after your dog’s teeth should be a normal part of daily life, in the same way you look after your own. Getting dogs used to routine dental care as early as possible will make the whole experience less stressful for everyone.
How many teeth does a dog have?
Puppies are born without any teeth. They start to develop their 28 deciduous (baby) teeth at 4 weeks of age and these are usually fully developed by 8 weeks.
Puppies start to lose their baby teeth at around 4 months of age, and by 6-7 months of age they should have all 42 of their permanent teeth present:
12 incisors – the small teeth at the front are used for nibbling grass or for grooming.
4 canines – these are the big ‘fang’ teeth which are used for tearing at meat. The root of these teeth is longer than the crown which you can see.
16 premolars – these teeth are involved in chewing, they help break food into smaller chunks. The last upper premolars along with the first lower molars are known as the carnassials and are the most powerful teeth in the dog’s mouth.
10 molars – these teeth are used for grinding food down.
Lower premolars and first molar
Once the adult teeth are through, there is no going back. If they get broken, fall out or need to be extracted due to dental disease, there is no way of replacing them. If looked after properly, they should last your dog all their life.
How should I care for my dog’s teeth?
Caring for your dog’s teeth should be part of your daily routine. A quick check and toothbrush needn’t take long but it is the best way to keep your dog’s mouth healthy. If trained well, dogs can come to enjoy this aspect of daily life.
An annual dental check with your vet will help to detect any problems which may have gone unnoticed and will allow issues to be dealt with quickly, before they cause problems.
Make sure your dog has appropriate toys and treats to chew. Items which are too hard can cause dental fractures. Bones, stones and antlers are particularly dangerous.
What do I do if my dog’s teeth won’t let me brush their teeth?
If your dog has gum disease, it may be painful for them to have their teeth brushed. Book an appointment with your vet for an assessment. They may require a dental procedure under anaesthetic which will involve extraction of any diseased or loose teeth, and removal of tartar and plaque from around the gum line. Mouthwashes can be used to reduce plaque build-up after this procedure while the inflammation in the gum settles down. You can then gradually train your dog to accept tooth brushing.