Over time, you spend a lot of time with your dog and want to know as much as possible about them. Have you ever wondered how many teeth dogs have?
We tend to think a lot about our dog’s teeth when they are puppies and are mouthing or chewing everything they can find – including our hands! However, it’s important not to forget about them as your dog grows up.
Your dog’s dental hygiene is as important as yours, but he can’t brush twice a day like you, unless you help him.
In this ultimate guide to doggy dentistry we’ll be exploring and answering the following questions so that we can keep our dogs healthy and happy for a great quality of life.
- How many teeth do dogs have?
- Do adults and puppies have the same number of teeth?
- What are the different types of teeth?
- What are the dental differences for different breeds?
- How are dog teeth different to other mammals?
- How should we take care of a dog’s teeth?
How many teeth do dogs have?
All adult dogs sport 42 teeth in total. That’s 20 on their top jaw and 22 on the lower jaw.
Sometimes a dog might have fewer than 42 teeth if the adult teeth have not yet all emerged, or if they have lost teeth, either from carrying heavy sticks or stones in their mouth or through decay. If they’ve fewer than 42 you should know about it, as you’ll need to keep an eye out for any pain in case your dog needs to visit the vet.
How many teeth do puppies have? Is it the same as an adult dog?
Just like humans, puppies start with no teeth, then grow a set of puppy teeth, before losing these to be replaced with their adult teeth.
Puppies’ teeth begin to emerge at around two weeks of age. This can be a bit sore for them, just as it is for human babies – can you imagine 28 sharp little puppy teeth pushing through your gums? It’s no wonder that it’s tender. They should still be able to carry out their normal daily puppy activities but may show some signs of discomfort.
The process also comes with some breath issues. One way of combating this is to rub some coconut oil on their gums. It sweetens their breath and soothes their poor sore gums. Once their teeth are all in, the mother may not wish to feed so much, as the teeth can be a bit sharp for her, so you will need to begin to feed puppy food by the age of about eight weeks.
As you will know if you’ve ever spent any length of time with a puppy, those 28 little teeth are extremely sharp – almost like little needles! This is probably because their jaws are not very strong yet, so the sharp teeth help them to eat. Gnawing on toys will not only make them feel better as they teethe, but they will also build up the strength of the muscles in the jaw.
One thing you’ll notice is that puppies don’t have molars. Molars, as we’ll learn a bit later, are for chewing, and puppies’ diet doesn’t consist of hard particles that need crunching up.
The puppy teeth will fall out around the age of four months. It’s a gradual process and should be allowed to take place naturally. Don’t be tempted to “help” release a wobbly tooth. They are embedded deep in the gums with long roots and if you pull too early, the roots could break and cause an infection deep in the gum.
On the other hand, if an adult tooth is coming through and the baby tooth is still hanging in there, you may need to make a vet appointment to get the baby tooth removed. By the age of around seven months, all 42 adult teeth should have come through. If they reach 9 months and are still short of some adult teeth, check with your vet.
Again, the process of losing the puppy teeth and the adult teeth coming through is quite painful. Your puppy will deal with it by chewing everything. They can be given a range of chew toys and praised for using those.
Types of dog teeth
Just like humans and other mammals, there are four main types of teeth in a dog’s mouth, and all perform different functions. These are the main teeth types:
Incisors are the sharp teeth at the front of the mouth. These are used for tearing, cutting and scraping. You’ll see your dog use them to get the meat off a bone. They can also be used for self-grooming – for example picking out and nibbling at parasites. A dog has six incisors on the top and six on the bottom.
As you’ll know, the canine teeth and the dog species share a name, and these are certainly the most prominent teeth in the dog’s mouth. The canines are the long, pointy teeth found one on each side of the incisors, top and bottom. They are used for locking on to items for tugging and tearing.
These are just behind your dog’s canines. They have a sharper edge than the molar and are mainly used for shearing and shredding food before being ground by the molars. If your dog gets hold of a toy or blanket with the side of the mouth, it will probably be destroyed pretty soon!
Just behind the canines, there are four on each side, top and bottom – sixteen in all.
The fourth premolar both top and bottom is the carnassial. It’s laterally flattened and the top and bottom one fit together to provide a really good grip.
Right at the back of the mouth, the molars are flat teeth used for grinding up hard or tough foods so it can safely be swallowed. In general, dogs will break down tougher meat with their premolars, and hard biscuits with their molars. There are four molars in the top jaw and six in the bottom.
Do different breeds have the same types of teeth?
All dogs have the same number of teeth and the same combination and number of incisors, canines, premolars and molars. However, there are some differences in the teeth between different breeds.
First of all, ideally a dog has what is called a scissors bite. This means that the top and bottom canines fit together like a pair of scissors to allow the dog to easily bite, grip and tear.
In some breeds such as the Boxer and the Bulldog, and underbite has become common and desired, where the lower jaw is longer than the top. This should not reach the point where it is difficult for the dog to eat.
Smaller dogs, as well as obviously having smaller teeth, tend to be more prone to plaque issues. Those with shorter noses such as Pugs are particularly renowned for this. Lhasa Apsos are often plagued with wonky teeth which can make brushing difficult. Those smaller teeth are also more delicate, and smaller dogs shouldn’t chew on bones or toys that are too hard.
Bigger dogs, on the other hand, are generally allowed to play with big, tough toys, and play tug-of-war. Unfortunately, this can lead to more severe dental injuries such as broken teeth.
How does this compare with other mammals?
You can tell a lot about an animal by examining its teeth. With their 42 teeth, dogs are endowed with more than us humans with our paltry 32, but considerably fewer than the 100 teeth sported by the giant armadillo!
It’s not just the number of teeth though, it’s the type.
Sheep, with their diet of grass, have no canines, but a set of incisors for snipping grass, and a lot of molars for grinding it. The elephant, by contrast, does have incisors, but they’ve been modified into very useful tusks! In their mouth they have mostly molars for chewing the vegetation they eat, and they replace these six times in their life!
Herbivores tend to have more ridged molars for grinding their food and may even utilize a more side-to-side movement of their lower jaw. Carnivores, like dogs and cats, have much more prominent canine teeth and premolars for the tearing and ripping that they need to do to eat meat.
Interestingly, another difference is in the force of the bite. While a dog bites much harder (at 250-325 pounds per square inch – PSI) than a human (at 120-220 PSI), they are nowhere near the bite of the 2 pound Macaw which was found to have a bite of 375 PSI or a wolf with 400 PSI.
How to take care of your dogs’ teeth?
Doggy dental care is extremely important. Poor dental hygiene in dogs can lead to kidney, liver and heart disease, and worryingly, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association, nearly 80% of dogs at the age of three are already showing signs of periodontal disease.
Another reason to take good care of your dog’s teeth is that bad teeth are painful. Teeth are living tissues, a pulp, covered by bone, dentine and enamel.
Taking care of the teeth needs to start from a puppy. While the puppy teeth don’t last long, this is the ideal time to get your dog used to you examining and taking care of their teeth. Getting your fingers in their mouth and rubbing the teeth and gums, praising and reassuring all the time, will get them used to the process and help them look forward to teeth time.
Make sure the toothpaste is formulated for dogs as some human toothpaste may contain toxic xylitol. Dog toothpaste also often comes with meaty flavor, which dogs appreciate and come to look forward to. While daily brushing is ideal, aim for at least once a week. You can use a specially designed dog toothbrush too. Experiment with brush and paste combinations to find one your dog likes.
Dental Chew Toys
Dogs have a natural instinct to chew and the toy keeps them occupied. It can sooth teething pain and the constant gnawing actually scrapes the plaque off the teeth. Chew toys made from rubber, plastic, nylon or rawhide all work effectively.
Dog dental chew treats
These tasty treats are designed to rub against your dog’s teeth and polish them. As well as the shape and texture, there are often added ingredients to help reduce plaque. It’s worth checking there aren’t too many unnecessary additives though.
Visit the vet
Regular check-ups with your veterinarian are vital to the overall health of your pet. They are experts at spotting dental problems before they get too bad. Bulldogs, Yorkshire Terriers and Dachshunds are all prone to periodontal disease and the vet will perhaps suggest more frequent deep dental cleans, which may involve sedation to get right to the root of the problem.
You can get additives to put into your dog’s water which will reduce plaque buildup and get rid of the bacteria that causes bad breath. You simply pour a capful into their water bowl each day. They are tasteless and odorless, so the dog won’t even know it’s there. Most water additives use antibacterial zinc as their active ingredient.
Maintain a healthy Diet
Following a sensible and healthy diet isn’t just of benefit to your dog’s heart, it also benefits their teeth. Food with natural ingredients and without too many additives will help make sure that your dog gets all the nutrition they need without doing damage to their teeth.
Dental spray is great to use in between brushes, killing the bacteria that cause plaque and freshening the breath. It’s important to check the ingredient list and ensure there are no artificial fragrances on the list. Also look for dental sprays that are for eliminating plaque and tartar, not just freshening breath.
So, in this Ultimate Guide we asked How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?
We’ve answered not just that, but also a whole range of other questions about doggie dentistry, helping you to keep your dog’s dental hygiene tip top so you can be sure that they are happy and healthy and that you are always happy to get up close for a cuddle.
Check out these other great posts:
Forrest is a lover of dogs, the wild outdoors, deep mysterious conversations… and coffee. He is the owner of several websites, including Canine Weekly. He resides in Austin, Texas.