Dogs are born without teeth but will grow two full sets of them by the time they are adults. Sometimes adult dogs don't lose all of their baby teeth when their adult teeth come in though and this can cause issues. Knowing what to watch for and whether or not veterinary intervention is warranted if your dog retains its baby teeth can help prevent bigger problems later on in your dog's life.
Dog Baby Teeth
Dog baby teeth are also known as deciduous, milk, or puppy teeth and this first set of teeth starts appearing at about 3-4 weeks of age. At about one month of age puppies have 28 baby teeth and they will have these teeth until their adult teeth come in and push them out. Baby teeth are not meant to be permanent and should fall out when the adult teeth arrive between 3.5 and 7 months of age.
Dog Adult Teeth
Dogs have 42 adult or permanent teeth that should replace the baby teeth by about 7 months of age. Puppies will begin teething at about 3.5 to 4 months of age and will chew on items to help relieve the discomfort of the erupting adult teeth and loosen the baby teeth. As the adult teeth come in, the baby teeth are usually loosened and fall out on their own. Adult teeth should then last the entire life of your dog unless periodontal disease or trauma results in their loss.
What Are Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs?
Retained baby teeth are baby teeth that are still in the mouth after the adult teeth have erupted. The roots of baby teeth normally reabsorb into the body resulting in loose teeth that easily fall out and leave room for adult teeth. But with retained baby teeth, the roots do not reabsorb and the baby teeth fill the space where the adult teeth should be. The teeth that are most commonly retained in dogs are the canines and incisors but any baby teeth can be retained.
What Dogs Have Retained Baby Teeth?
Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to having retained baby teeth but it can happen to any young dog. Brachycephalic or smushed-face dogs like pugs, shih-tzus, and bulldogs along with small breeds like chihuahuas and pomeranians are more likely to have baby teeth that don't want to leave. Occasionally larger breeds will also have this problem but it is far less common in dogs with bigger mouths. There can also be a genetic predisposition to having retained baby teeth so if the parents of a puppy had retained baby teeth it is more likely that their puppies will also.
Problems With Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs
Some dog owners joke that having a lot of retained baby teeth makes it look like their puppy has shark teeth due to the additional set but these lingering teeth can actually cause problems. Crowding, misalignment, improper jaw development, weakened enamel, an improper bite, and even ultimately periodontal disease can result from retained baby teeth. Food and bacteria is more easily trapped between the extra teeth resulting in dental disease and infections, extra teeth can rub and weaken the enamel on other teeth, retained baby teeth roots can get infected, and sometimes retained baby teeth can even impede normal jaw bone growth.
Do Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs Need to Be Pulled?
Since retained baby teeth can cause problems for a dog later in life, it is best to have them pulled by your veterinarian sooner rather than later. Many dog owners choose to extract any remaining baby teeth when they get their dog spayed or neutered since this procedure is commonly done at the same age as when all the adult teeth have emerged at 6-7 months of age. If the retained baby teeth stay in the mouth for too long, problems can arise, such as abnormal jaw bone growth or enamel deterioration, that may not be able to be corrected.
Pulling or extracting baby teeth requires anesthesia since it is a painful and delicate procedure. Care is taken by the veterinarian to extract the entire baby tooth root without damaging the adult tooth root. Dental X-rays may also be performed to confirm the complete removal of the baby tooth roots that are not able to be seen under the gumline.