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Dog Dental Tidbits

How many teeth do dogs have?

The average adult dog has about a third more teeth than his human counterpart. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth compared to a measly 32 average human teeth (not counting any wisdom teeth. Those are “bonus.”). Puppies possess 28 baby teeth while human babies will have 20 deciduous or “baby” teeth.

When do dogs begin to lose their baby teeth?

Puppies begin losing baby teeth around 12 to 16 weeks of age. By four months of age, almost all of a pup’s deciduous teeth have been shed and many of the permanent teeth have already erupted and are in place.

Can you tell how old a dog is by looking at his teeth?

The answer is, it depends. When dogs are young, you can estimate their age by observing which teeth have erupted. For example, a puppy’s deciduous incisors typically erupt between 4 to 6 weeks of age and the permanent incisors are in place by 12 to 16 weeks. The canines or “fang teeth” emerge at 3 to 5 weeks and the permanent canines by 12 to 16 weeks. By the time the permanent molars are present, the dog is 4 to 6 months old. In general, once a dog reaches six months of age, all or least most of his permanent teeth are visible.

Once the adult teeth are in place by about 6 months, it’s no longer possible to accurately estimate age using the teeth.

How can I tell if my dog has gum disease?

Start by lifting your dog’s lips. If you see dirty or discolored teeth, typically an ugly brownish-greenish color, see your veterinarian. This is likely tartar or plaque and is an early sign of imminent gum or periodontal disease. Next examine the gums for any swelling or redness. If you brush your fingertip along the gum line and observe the tissues become angry and inflamed or even bleed, this indicates more serious gum infection and disease. Finally, take a whiff. If your dog's breath is foul smelling, this is usually associated with bacterial infection. “Doggie breath” shouldn’t be a reason to avoid your dog. A dog with a healthy mouth should have pleasant or at least neutral odor. If your dog exhibits any of these signs, see your veterinarian for help.

I heard that dogs could get mouth cancer. Is that true?

Unfortunately oral tumors are diagnosed in many dogs. In fact, it’s estimated that one in four dogs will die of some form of cancer. Malignant oral tumors in dogs can be very aggressive and quickly spread throughout the body if untreated. If you observe any swelling, lumps, or dark and unusual colored tissue in your dog’s mouth, have it examined immediately. If diagnosed early, many oral cancers have a relatively good prognosis.

I have tried many times to brush my dog’s teeth with no success. Is there anything else I can do to take better care of my dog’s teeth?

You’re not alone. In fact, many people struggle with this very basic procedure and don’t brush their dog’s teeth every day. That is why it is critical to have your pets’ teeth professionally cleaned under anesthesia once a year by a trained veterinarian. While under anesthesia, each tooth is assessed individually and a thorough examination of the oral cavity is performed.

After the dental cleaning, chew treats approved by your veterinarian can be used to help remove plaque and tartar. Many have special ingredients embedded in them that help reduce harmful mouth bacteria.

It is also a good idea to regularly rinse your dogs’ mouth with an antimicrobial rinse designed to kill pathogenic bacteria that can cause gum infection. This also helps to keep their breath fresher. Drinking water additives can also help to fight plaque formation.

Finally, at least once a week you should look inside your dog's mouth to make sure everything looks, and smells, healthy. If you follow these suggestions, taking care of your dog's mouth isn’t so hard after all!