Keeping Dogs Teeth Healthy

So how many teeth does a dog have? An average adult dog has about a third more teeth than their human counterpart – Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth, Puppies possess 28 baby teeth.

Just like people, dogs can break or fracture their teeth. And dogs are five times more likely to get gum disease than humans for a couple of reasons. First, dogs have a more alkaline mouth, which promotes plaque formation. Second, unlike humans, dogs usually don’t have their teeth brushed daily.

Puppies need their teeth for different reasons than adult dogs. So for the first few weeks of their life, they don’t need teeth at all – as all their nourishment comes from their mother’s milk, so they don’t have any, at least not visible anyhow. At around 4 weeks of age, their baby teeth start to come in. These teeth, about 28 of them, are mainly canines and incisors – the sharper teeth at the front and sides of their mouths. They won’t be chewing a lot of difficult food, so they only these teeth are needed.

As they develop towards adulthood, the puppies baby teeth fall out to make room for their adult teeth, at around 4 months old. At this stage, puppies are often uncomfortable and go through a teething stage (just like human babies). To relieve their discomfort, they chew on anything, and everything, they can. That’s why you may come home to find your favourite shoes in pieces! By 7 months they’ll have all of their permanent teeth in place.

Once all their adult teeth have come in, your dog will have around 42 permanent teeth. This includes the adult version of canines and incisors they had as puppies, plus molars. Occasionally, a dog will have a tooth or two that doesn’t come in. If it causes pain, it may need to be extracted. Once adult teeth are in, these are it, so you need to take care of them.

The largest tooth in a dog’s mouth is the upper fourth premolar, also known as the carnassial tooth. Its special shape and tooth surface is designed to help shear, crush and hold. This is why you see dogs grasp chew toys with the side of their mouth, chomping feverishly.

Dental caries or “cavities” as they’re more commonly known, are rare in dogs. This is due to many factors including a relatively low-sugar diet, differences in mouth bacteria, and the shape of the teeth. When cavities do occur, they can be treated the same way as human cavities: drill out the damaged part of the tooth and fill it with a special dental compound. In severe cases involving tooth root exposure, endodontic procedures will be performed such as root canal and capping. Extraction of the affected tooth is required in certain cases.

It’s estimated that 80% of dogs over the age of 2 have some form of dental disease.
Dental disease takes many forms, such as:  
   •  Chronic bad breath – this is a common symptom that signals something is wrong.  
   •  Gingivitis (inflamed gums) – reversible with treatment. 
   •  Periodontal disease – infection between the teeth and gums. Very painful and may require tooth extraction. 
   •  Cysts and tumours – lumps that form in the gums and may require drainage or surgery.
Chew bones and chew toys to clean teeth
There are many synthetic bones and chew toys that are specially designed to strengthen your dog’s gums and teeth. Just make sure you’re providing safe objects for your dog to chew on. Hard objects can cause broken teeth.
Giving your dog a good bone to chew on can help get rid of build up and keep teeth strong, but it’s not a total solution to ensuring good dental hygiene and overall health.

Brushing your dog’s teeth
Use a canine toothbrush and a little strategy for best results. A double-headed canine toothbrush with the brushes at a 45 degree angle to clean below the gumline. Your dog might not go for the tooth brushing at first, but hopefully, you can make it a reasonably pleasant experience for both of you. Try and choose a time when your dog has had a decent amount of exercise, so they’r more inclined to sit still for the procedure. Don’t overdo it the first few times. Start slowly and quit if your dog gets agitated, even if you don’t brush the whole mouth. You can increase the time every day as they get used to it. Making sure to speak soothingly and pleasantly during the brushing and reward your dog with a treat afterwards. Hopefully, before too long, your dog should start looking forward to the event.

Grown dogs can learn to become comfortable with dog teeth cleaning, but make things easier for yourself by working with your dog as a puppy.

Tooth paste for your dog
This is very important. Do NOT use regular human toothpaste for your dog. Most human toothpastes include fluoride, which is extremely poisonous to dogs. You can find toothpaste formulated for dogs at most good pet stores.

Whether you brush your dog’s teeth or not, you should check inside your dogs mouth every week or so. If you notice any of these signs of dental problems, then a vet may be in order:
• Bad breath
• Change in eating or dog chewing habits
• Pawing at the face or mouth
• Depression
• Excessive drooling
• Misaligned or missing teeth
• Discoloured, broken, missing or crooked teeth
• Red, swollen, painful or bleeding gums
• Yellowish-brown tartar crust along the gum line
• Bumps or growths within the mouth

Even with healthy teeth, your dog should have their teeth checked by a professional every six to twelve months. Your vet should include a dental examination with a normal checkup, ask for it if they don’t.

With the proper care, your dog will hopefully get to keep all 42 of those teeth for the rest of its life. Just like humans, dogs have baby (puppy) teeth and adult teeth.