Dog teeth

Like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth in their lives. As puppies they have 28 baby teeth that start to break through their gums between 3 and 6 weeks of age. Puppies do not need to grind much of their food so they do not have molars. Puppy teeth begin to shed and be replaced by permanent adult teeth at approximately four months of age. Although there are some breed variations, most adult dogs have 42 teeth. Molars should start to emerge once your puppy reaches 6 or 7 months of age.

The order of tooth replacement starts with incisors, then canines (fangs), and finally premolars. The teething period can be a frustrating time for your puppy. Teething can lead to your puppy clamping it's teeth down on anything it can find, in an attempt to relieve the discomfort. Teething can be accompanied by drooling, irritability, and fluctuations in appetite.

Dogs has six incisors on the upper jaw and six on the lower. They use their incisors to nibble shreds of meat from bones and to groom themselves and other dogs. Mutual grooming is a greeting and bonding behaviour in dogs that maintains pack order. Dominant and submissive dogs both groom each other, but the solicitation and order of grooming is quite specific. The dominant dog can seek grooming or deliver it whenever he/she wants to do so; the submissive dog must wait to be asked or approached. Owners of two or more dogs can learn a lot about their pets by watching mutual grooming sessions.

Canine teeth for some people are the scary ones. Wolves use their fangs to grab and rip their prey; dogs use them to hold objects in their mouths and to defend themselves when necessary.

Four premolars line each side of the upper and lower jaws. These are the shearing teeth, used to rip great chunks of flesh from prey animals. Although they no longer hunt for survival, dogs can still eat in the manner of wolves by grabbing meat with the premolars and ripping it off the bone.

Dogs use their premolars to chew on rawhides, bones, and other chew toys. They hold the toy between their paws and grab it with these strong pointed teeth by tilting their jaws to the side.

The top jaw has two molars on each side, and the bottom jaw has three. These are the crushing teeth, use by wolves to crack caribou bones and by dogs to finish off a large biscuit.

Like people, dogs can have tooth problems ranging from retained baby teeth to tooth decay. Since a healthy mouth depends on healthy teeth, pet owners should periodically check their pets teeth, provide them with chew bones and toys etc.

The roots of baby teeth should be absorbed as adult teeth erupt, but if this absorption is retarded, the baby tooth does not give way to the new tooth. Retained baby teeth can cause a bad bite, a malocclusion that can lead to tooth decay and other problems later on. If a baby tooth does not fall out when the adult tooth grows in, it should be removed

Bite

A dog's bite describes the way their teeth fit when their upper and lower jaws are closed. The standards for most breeds call for a "scissors bite," in which the upper incisors just overlap and touch the lower incisors. This arrangement prevents wear on the incisors and keeps the teeth in alignment.

A level bite is one in which the incisors meet edge to edge. A level bite is acceptable, but not ideal.

Overshot and undershot jaws are two common bite problems. An overshot jaw is one in which the upper jaw is longer than the lower, causing the teeth to overlap and not touch. When permanent teeth erupt in the lower jaw of an overshot bite, they may damage the soft tissue in the roof of the mouth. Some lower teeth may have to be pulled to prevent this damage.

An undershot jaw is one in which the bottom jaw is longer than the upper jaw. Although this is generally a problem, a few breeds such as Boxer, Boston Terrier, and Bulldog have naturally undershot jaws.

In most breeds, overshot and undershot jaws are forbidden in the show ring. Breeders try to avoid breeding dogs with jaw problems so the puppies inherit good tooth formation and jaw growth.

In the wild, a wolf or coyote with an overshot or undershot jaw would not be as successful in killing prey or in eating. Although dogs don't have to hunt their prey, a dog with a severely overshot or undershot jaw could also experience some eating problems and may have difficulty playing fetch or Frisbee

Decay

Although dogs do not generally have cavities in their teeth, your dog may develop tooth problems if their diet includes soft foods that can leave debris in gum pockets at the base of the teeth. The debris leads to infections, which soften the gums and cause them to recede. Such infections cause foul breath odour, which should be a clue to visit the veterinarian. If let go, this disease can lead to tooth loss.

Tartar, a precipitate of calcium salts, builds up on teeth in hard water areas. Tartar can build up and lead to increased gum disease and, ultimately, to tooth loss.

Pet owners can prevent or alleviate gum decay by feeding kibbled foods and hard biscuits to scrub the teeth, by keeping soft foods that can leave debris to a minimum, by providing hard rubber or nylon toys for chewing, and by brushing their dogs teeth a couple of times each week. When brushing teeth, use baking soda or a special toothpaste formulated for dogs, not toothpaste for humans..