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Top 10 Pet Dental Health Questions

Your pet’s dental health is important. We regularly receive questions from owners about their pet’s teeth and how to care for them. We’ve answered our top 10 questions below.

1. How many teeth do dogs have? 
The average adult dog has 42 permanent teeth (humans have 32). Puppies have 28 deciduous or “baby” teeth.

2. 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 the deciduous teeth will have been shed and many of the permanent teeth will already be in place.

3. Can you tell how old a dog is by looking at his teeth?
Yes and no. A puppy’s age can be estimated by observing which teeth have erupted. For example, 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 emerge at 3 to 5 weeks and the permanent canines by 12 to 16 weeks. By the time the permanent molars are present, the puppy is usually 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 it’s anyone’s guess. Some might think that an adult dog’s age can be estimated by judging the amount of wear on the teeth. However, there are many things that can cause wear on teeth like they type of food the dog eats, the toys it plays with or how much it likes to chew. What if a young dog chews on hard things? That could lead to a three-year old stray dog mistakenly being categorized as a senior dog on the basis of worn teeth! Guessing a dog’s age must include much more than simply the current state of his teeth. 

4. Can dogs regrow adult teeth if they lose them?
No. Dogs can’t regrow lost or damaged teeth. If they lose an adult tooth, they lose it forever. This is why it’s so important to take good care of your pets' teeth. They’ve got to last a lifetime

5. Do dogs get cavities?
Cavities can occur in dogs but they are rare. 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, root canals or capping can be performed. Extraction of the affected tooth is sometimes required.

6. Do small or large dogs have more problems with their teeth?
Dogs both large and small can develop serious oral and periodontal problems. In small dogs with short snouts and cramped jaws, we tend to see more issues with plaque, tartar, and dental calculus buildup. This leads to gum and periodontal disease and eventually painful loose teeth. Small dogs may chip and break tiny teeth if permitted to gnaw on hard toys. Larger breeds tend to experience more traumatic injuries to teeth and gums such as fractured tooth tips, broken jaws, and worn tooth surfaces. If the tooth root becomes exposed, this results in severe pain and death of the tooth. Larger dogs can also develop the same plaque and tartar buildup as well as the gum and periodontal disease of their smaller siblings.

7. 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, 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 fetid and foul, this is usually associated with bacterial infection. “Doggie breath” shouldn’t be a reason to avoid your dog. Remember that sweet smelling “puppy breath?” 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.

8. What’s that really big tooth in the middle of my dog’s upper jaw?
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. This is also why you have to replace so many chew toys. Next time blame the carnassial teeth instead of your dog. 

9. 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. 

10. I’ve tried many times to brush my dog’s teeth with no success. He seems to hate it. Is there anything else I can do to take better care of my dog’s teeth?
You’re not alone. First, we recommend having your pet’s teeth professionally cleaned under anesthesia once a year. This is perhaps the single most important thing a pet parent can do for their pet when they can’t brush the teeth daily. Next, make sure to provide your dogs with chew treats approved to help remove plaque and tartar. Many have special ingredients embedded in them that help reduce harmful mouth bacteria. You can also regularly rinse your dog’s mouth with an antimicrobial rinse designed to kill pathogenic bacteria that can cause gum infection. This also helps leave their breath nice and fresh. At least once a week, take a peek inside your dog’s mouths to make sure everything looks, and smells, healthy. Finally, take a look at this helpful video demonstrating proper tooth brushing technique to learn some tips to make the brushing experience easier for you and your dog.

February is Dental Health Month at CEDARCREST! Taking care of your pet’s teeth and mouth will help keep them healthy and happy! Call us at (540) 943-7577 or request an appointment online to discuss your pet’s oral health or to schedule a professional oral exam or cleaning.