Dog teeth – you know they’re sharp when your dog’s a puppy and you know it’s important to keep them clean…but what else do you know?
If the answer is “not much” then don’t worry, you’re not alone!
Today we’re going to take a look at dog teeth and cover the basics of what you need to know.
We will begin with the anatomy of your dog’s mouth!
Dog Teeth – The Anatomy of Your Dog’s Teeth
As a puppy, your dog will begin with 28 “milk” teeth.
These are the needle sharp teeth that anyone who has owned a puppy will be familiar with.
Between 12 weeks and 16 weeks, your puppy will begin losing their milk teeth and by around 6 months to 7 months, they should have a full set of 42 adult teeth. If your dog does not have a full set of adult teeth by 7 months, you should talk to your vet. If your dog still has milk teeth while adult teeth are erupting at the same time, this is also something you should consult your vet over since it can affect the placement of your dog’s permanent teeth.
These adult teeth include 20 upper teeth (4 molars, 8 premolars, 2 canine, 6 incisors) and 22 lower teeth (6 molars, 8 premolars, 2 canine, 6 incisors).
Dog Teeth: Molars
Your dog’s molars are usually the last of the adult teeth to come in. Molars are used to grind food which is why puppies have no need for molars!
The molars of domestic dogs frequently have plaque buildup due to our inability to properly brush these far back teeth. This is why it is important to incorporate bones and dental cleanings into your dog’s dental regime.
Dog Teeth: Carnassial Teeth
Your dog has a carnassial tooth on the upper and lower jaw on both sides. The carnassial teeth are very large teeth with shearing surfaces used to shear meat from the bone. The top jaw carnassial teeth are classified as pre-molars, where the bottom jaw carnassial teeth are classified as molars.
Carnassial teeth are important to carnivorous animals (although, not all carnivores have them) because they serve as “knives” to quickly shear large amounts of meat at one time. So important are these large teeth, that in the wild, a dog that loses their carnassial teeth are highly unlikely to survive.
Carnassial teeth are also used to crush bone or harder material which is why you will often see dogs chewing their bones on this particular part of the mouth.
The large carnassial tooth has three roots, which makes dental work on this tooth quite expensive and much more intricate for your dog’s dentist! If your dog experiences an infection or abscess at the root of this tooth, they almost always present with undereye swelling.
Domestic dogs rarely experience a complete loss of their carnassial teeth, but they do frequently experience cracking, fracturing, breaking, or infection of the carnassial teeth. Canine dentists can perform root canals and other procedures on the carnassial teeth to save them from loss. Fortunately, if a domestic dog does lose their carnassial teeth, they can survive on a domestic diet.
Dog Teeth: Pre-Molars
Your dog has more pre-molars than any other teeth.
Pre-molars are “ripping teeth” and used for ripping meat away from bone. Non-carnassial pre-molars are less effective at removing meat from bone than carnassial teeth but they are also used for ripping food into smaller pieces.
You may notice that your dog also uses their pre-molars when chewing bones.
Pre-molars also have a tendency towards plaque buildup and should be brushed frequently.
Dog Teeth: Canine Teeth
Your dog has four canine teeth each of which has a single root. These are the teeth most often referenced when a stray or rescue dog is “aged” using their teeth.
Your dog’s canine teeth are the large pointed teeth that are used for stabbing, holding, and tearing at prey. Most wild dogs depend on their canine teeth to kill their prey and injuries to these teeth can have a huge impact on nutrition.
Canine teeth have another important role in your dog’s mouth in that they keep your dog’s tongue in their mouth. A dog that has lost their canine teeth will often experience “lolling” of the tongue out of the mouth.
Canine teeth tend to wear down with age and they also commonly collect plaque and must be focused on when brushing your dog’s teeth.
Dog Teeth: Incisors
Your dog has twelve incisors that all have a single root. These twelve teeth are divided between the upper and lower jaw and each set of six is divided into two central incisors, two intermediate incisors and two lateral incisors. The two front incisors are your dog’s central incisors, the two incisors that frame those central incisors are the intermediate incisors and those intermediate incisors are framed by the lateral incisors.
The incisors are used for ripping and scraping. Your dog will use them to rip meat from a bone and scrape any tough tissue from the bone.
Your dog also uses their incisors much as we use our hands, they use them for carrying items and for picking debris or parasites out of their coat.
Your dog’s incisors are often worn down quite heavily over their lifetime and some older dogs may seem to lack central and intermediate incisors completely.
Do you have questions about your dog’s teeth? Drop a comment below and we’ll do what we can to help!