Canine Teeth: A Guide to Dental Procedures for Dogs

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vet doing dental exam on dog's canine teeth

A trip to the dentist is not just something that mammals like ourselves with two legs need to do on a regular basis! Dogs too need regular oral health care and routine examinations. There are also other times dental procedures, and oral surgery are performed to care for canine teeth.

The condition of your dog’s teeth and gums can impact directly on their overall wellness and quality life. For more information on the importance of incorporating dental care procedures into your dog’s routine, read on.

Dental Health for Dogs is Linked to Their Lifespan!

Most people already factor in things like a good diet and exercise in caring for their pooch. If you want to give your dog the best chance at having as long of a happy life as they possibly can, you also need to pay attention to their dental health.

The condition of your dog’s teeth and gums does impact on their health and can affect how long they live. Any bacteria that forms in their mouth as a result of poor dental health can spread throughout their body and cause damage to key organs such as their heart, kidneys, and liver.

Any resulting disease and illness to these organs can then shorten the expected lifespan of your pet.

Poor Dog Teeth and Gums Can Lead to a Bunch of Medical Conditions!

A dog with poor teeth and gums is at risk of not only the kind of doggy-breath that will make you stagger backward a few feet! Decayed canine teeth and gums can lead to other types of medical and health conditions that can make a dog unwell.

Gum Disease

Gum or periodontal disease is caused by a build-up of plaque or tartar on your dog’s canine teeth. Signs of gum disease are redness, swelling, and bleeding. Periodontal disease is not only painful for your dog, but it can also result in difficulties for them eating, nasal discharge, tooth loss, and other more serious illnesses.

Heart Disease

Heart disease is linked with gum disease in both dogs and humans. Bacteria from the mouth and gums enter into the bloodstream. This bacterium is then carried around the body causing damage to the heart and heart valves.

Endocarditis

Bacteria that spread from a dog’s mouth into their bloodstream can cause endocarditis. This is an inflammation and infection of the soft tissue, lining, and valves around the heart. If not treated, endocarditis can result in blood clots, heart murmurs, and congestive heart failure.

Dermatitis around the Mouth

Dermatitis around the folds of a dog’s mouth can also be the result of dental problems with canine teeth and gums. The already warm and moist environment around a dog’s lips is a breeding ground for bacteria and infections.

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

Dogs, like humans, grow two sets of teeth. However, compared to our 32 teeth (plus or minus any human wisdom teeth) dogs have an extra 10 teeth to make a total of 42.

The first set of teeth for a dog, like ours, are deciduous. A deciduous tooth, aka a baby tooth or milk tooth, is temporary. Deciduous teeth fall out naturally and a permanent set of adult teeth with different functions replace them.

Puppy teeth start to come in at around two weeks of age. This set of 28 deciduous teeth takes around 8-10 weeks to grow and then fall out again when a puppy is between the ages of three to five months old.

A dog’s permanent teeth start to come in at around when they are four months old. By the time a dog is six months of age, all of their adult canine teeth should have begun to appear, or erupt, in their mouth. Mature dogs have a total of 42 teeth of four types, each with a different function.

Cuspids, Eye Teeth, and Sharp Canine Teeth: Let’s Look at a Dog Teeth Diagram

dog teeth diagram

Dogs have teeth on both their upper and lower jaws. The upper dental arcade is the maxillary. The lower dental arcade the mandible, or mandibular. Working from the front to back of the 42 teeth in an adult dog’s mouth you will see four different types of teeth that serve different purposes.

  • Incisors: At the front of a dog’s mouth, there are 12 incisors – six at the top, and six at the bottom. Dogs mostly use their incisors for nibbling at food and grooming.
  • Canine: Also known as cuspids, eye teeth, and fangs, a dog’s maxillary canine teeth are those two long pointed teeth on each side of their mouth just behind the incisors. Dog’s use their canine teeth to puncture and hold objects.
  • Premolars: Behind the canine teeth are sixteen pre-molars with pointed tops. Dog’s use their pointed premolars to both bite and chew their food.
  • Molars: At the very back of a dog’s mouth are their flatter topped molars. These 10 teeth have a flatter surface to use for chewing and grinding food.

 Common Dog Tooth Issues and How to Fix Them!

Taking care of issues with your dog’s teeth is not so different from your own. The food they eat can result in a build-up of plaque. Damage to a dog’s teeth can also occur through cracks and cavities caused by accidents and traumas.

Check your dog’s teeth, gums, and palatal areas regularly. Signs your dog may have a problem with their teeth include discolored and dirty teeth, stinky lips or breath, and swelling or redness to their gums.

Prevention is always the first step to address any tooth issues and improving dogs’ oral health. Be mindful of taking care of their teeth regularly at home as part of their care routine. Dog’s also need regular hygiene visits with their own dentist or orthodontist, aka their vet or a veterinary technician.

The Plague of Plaque

Plaque is a plague – there’s no doubt about it. Plaque left on the surface of teeth can destroy the enamel, cause gingivitis and gum disease, and lead to other illnesses in the body.

How do you get rid of plaque on the teeth of a dog? Much the same way as you would on your own teeth by regular brushing and scaling. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly with dog-formulated toothpaste – ideally daily, if not weekly. Hard chew toys can also help with dental hygiene.

Get your dog’s teeth and mouth examined regularly by a veterinary surgeon. They will recommend your dog’s teeth be professionally descaled and cleaned as and when needed to remove plaque and tartar.

image of a dog's teeth with plaque

Canine Tooth Cracks and Cavities

Dogs are less susceptible to cavities than humans because they have less sugar in their diet. However, dogs can and do need fillings in tooth cavities on occasion, or to have teeth extracted because of tooth decay. This is usually a surgical procedure under an anesthetic.

A dog’s teeth are susceptible to chipping and cracking. If you are worried about any chips or fractures you can see on your dog’s teeth, take them to the vet. Your dog may have minor enamel fractures that are nothing to be too concerned about. Or they may have deeper tooth fractures that need medical attention to prevent infection and further damage.

6 Basic Steps to Keep Your Dog’s Teeth in Shape

  1. Brush your dog’s teeth regularly. Get them into the routine of brushing while they are young.
  2. Use specially formulated doggie toothpaste and a toothbrush or finger brush designed for canine teeth.
  3. Make sure your dog has plenty of fresh water available to drink at all times. Consider adding a vet formulated mouthwash to their drinking water to help with their oral hygiene.
  4. Give your dog toys they can chew. The chewing action and the generation of saliva help with keeping gums healthy. Chewing toys and dental treats also help remove food debris from mouths.
  5. Let your vet check your dog’s teeth regularly. Veterinarians usually recommend a regular oral examination at least once a year.
  6. Feed your dog a healthy diet. Eating the right kind of foods suitable for a dog’s digestive system will help your dog’s teeth stay healthy and strong.

smiling labrador retriever with clean white dog teeth

Does Your Pet Insurance Cover Dental?

If you have pet insurance check your policy for what dental cover they include. Some plans only cover dental work that is the result of a trauma or accident. Other pet insurance policies may cover dental work needed in relation to illness.

Keep an Eye on Your Canine’s Teeth! It will Pay Off in the Long Run!

Paying attention to the care and condition of your dog’s teeth is a win-win for both your own wallet and your dog’s overall wellbeing. Preventing tooth decay and gum disease is always better than a trip to the vet to fix tooth or gum problems via surgery or other treatments.

Common Questions on Canine Teeth

What types of teeth do dogs have?

Do dogs get cavities in their teeth?

How often should you brush your dog’s teeth?

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