What Can You Do if Your Dog Has a Loose Tooth?

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Dogs have dental problems, just as human do. After a vigorous game of tug-of-war or other play that involves pulling on the front teeth, even lightly, a dog's teeth may come loose, especially as dogs age. You might hope that those loose teeth will straighten up again, but that is highly unlikely. They will probably only get looser and eventually fall out.

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Dogs' Small Front Teeth

A common area of tooth loss—especially as dogs age—are the incisors, the small teeth at the very front of the mouth. Chances are no, they won't tighten up. There is probably some bone loss in the jaw and/or dental disease, and they will probably fall out in time. Usually, this isn't painful, but it should be checked out by your veterinarian to rule out infection and determine if antibiotics or additional dental work are necessary to keep your dog healthy.

If you suspect your dog has a toothache, you should have a vet check it out as soon as possible. How do you know if your dog is suffering from dental pain? If the teeth of your pets "chatter," or they experience a reluctance to eat or excessive drooling, this could indicate a painful tooth or mouth.

Losing Loose Baby Teeth

In contrast, a dog that is 6 months old or less will lose the "baby," or deciduous, teeth, and this is totally normal. Most pets do not experience any pain with this process. Sometimes people will notice that a tooth is loose before it actually falls out. One potential problem that could occur is a failure to lose baby teeth, a condition called retained deciduous teeth. Many times, retained teeth are removed under anesthesia at the time of spaying or neutering. If left in, the retained teeth can disrupt adult tooth growth and increase chances of decay.

If your animal has had a vet checkup recently, consider calling your vet to see if the doctor noted anything on the record regarding the teeth in question, the gums, and surrounding teeth. If your dog is already on antibiotics, that will offer protection from secondary infection.

Dog Teeth: Some Basics

According to veterinarian Dr. Ernie Ward, the average adult dog has about a third more teeth than his human counterpart. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth compared to 32 average human teeth, not counting any wisdom teeth. Puppies possess 28 baby teeth, while human babies will have 20 deciduous or “baby” teeth.

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

If dogs lose an adult tooth, they lose it forever, just as with humans. This is why it’s so important to take good care of your pets' teeth.

Dental cavities are rare in dogs, notes Dr. Ward. This is due to many factors including a relatively low-sugar diet, differences in mouth bacteria, and the shape of the teeth. If there is a cavity, extraction of the affected tooth might be required in certain cases. This is another good reason to provide dental care for your dog.

Your dog's gum health starts with prevention. Dr. Ward recommends having your pets’ teeth professionally cleaned under anesthesia once a year by a trained veterinary technician. This is perhaps the single most important thing a pet owner can do for their pet when they can’t brush a pet's teeth daily. While the pet is under, take oral X-rays to make sure there are no hidden problems lurking out of sight underneath the gums. Next, make sure to provide dogs with chew treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to help remove plaque and tartar. 

If you suspect your dog has gum disease, which could lead to losing teeth and other problems, 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 that 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 a pleasant or at least neutral odor. If your dog exhibits any of these warning signs, see your veterinarian for help.