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How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have, and Can They Lose Them?

Do dogs have the same number of teeth as we do? Do they lose “puppy teeth” just like we lose our baby teeth?

Here’s a breakdown of how many teeth dogs have as puppies and adults, and whether it’s normal for them to lose their teeth.

How Many Teeth Should a Dog Have?

The number of teeth in a dog’s mouth will change as they grow from puppies into adult dogs.

Number of Puppy Teeth

Puppies are actually born without teeth, and it’s not until they are 3 to 4 weeks of age that their puppy teeth (formally called deciduous teeth) start to erupt.

By 3-5 months of age, they will usually have all 28 of their puppy teeth. These include incisors, canines and premolars.   

Puppy Teeth

Type of Tooth

# Upper Teeth

# Lower Teeth

Age of Eruption

(weeks)

Function

Incisors

6

6

4-6

Grasping

Canines

2

2

3-5

Tearing

Premolars

6

6

5-6

Grinding

However, some dogs (particularly toy and small breed dogs) tend to take longer to develop puppy and adult teeth. 

When puppy teeth do not fall out on their own and stay in your puppy’s mouth, they are called retained teeth.

This is an issue that can lead to overcrowding, which can cause abnormal positioning of adult teeth and increased susceptibility to periodontal problems.  

Retained teeth are generally viewed as a genetic problem. It can happen in any dog but is more likely in small breed dogs. Your veterinarian will have to remove these teeth surgically to make room for the adult teeth.

Number of Adult Dog Teeth

The age of eruption of permanent teeth in dogs is between 3-7 months of age. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth in their mouth, as compared to a human’s normal 32 teeth. 

Their upper jaw, called the maxilla, has 20 teeth, while their lower jaw, called the mandible, has 22 teeth. 

Types of Dog Teeth

Each type of dog tooth—incisor, canine, premolar and molar—serves its own function. Here’s a breakdown of what each type of tooth does and where these teeth are located:

Adult Canine Teeth

Type of Tooth

# Upper Teeth

# Lower Teeth

Age of Eruption

(months)

Function

Incisors

6

6

2-5

Grasping

Canines

2

2

5-6

Tearing

Premolars

8

8

4-6

Grinding

Molars

4

6

4-7

Grinding

Incisors

The teeth in the front of a dog’s mouth are called incisors. The top and bottom jaw have 6 incisors.

Dogs use their incisors mostly to grab objects like food, but they are also used for chewing or grooming as well.

In both dogs and cats, these teeth are relatively small and have one root per tooth.

Canines

The canine teeth are the longest teeth in the front of the mouth that appear as “fangs.” 

Dogs have 4 canines in their mouths (2 on the upper jaw and 2 on the lower jaw). These teeth are well-developed and slightly curved to better grip objects.

Canine teeth also only have one root per tooth.

Premolars

Just behind the canines are the premolars. Adult dogs have 16 premolars—8 on the top jaw and 8 on the bottom jaw.

These teeth are used for shearing through and grinding up food.

The premolar teeth can actually have between 1 to 2 roots per tooth that anchor them in the mouth.

Molars

Molars are the teeth in the back of a dog’s mouth. They can look a lot like premolars.

There are 4 molars on the top jaw and 6 on the lower jaw.  Molars are used for grinding food into small pieces to make it easy to swallow and digest.

They can have anywhere from 3 roots to 1 root anchoring them in the dog’s mouth.

Why Do Dogs Lose Teeth?

Aside from the transition from puppy teeth to adult teeth, it is not normal for a dog to lose teeth. If you notice that your dog is losing their adult teeth, you should call your veterinarian and schedule an appointment.

Here are the most common reasons for a dog to lose their adult teeth.

Periodontal Disease

The most common reason for a dog to lose teeth is because of advanced dental disease in their mouth. Without proper dental care—like brushing and veterinary dental cleanings—periodontal disease can lead to diseased gums and decaying teeth.

The natural process that your dog’s body goes through to reject a decaying tooth is uncomfortable and painful, and in severe cases, it can lead to life-threatening infection. 

Dental disease has further been associated with systemic effects on organs like the heart, liver and kidneys. The bacteria in a dog’s mouth can result in infections elsewhere in the body if they become severe.

Trauma

Your dog’s teeth can be lost through the process of trauma—whether it’s caused by chewing something or they sustain another injury to their mouth.

Some of the most common items that can cause fractures or loss of teeth are made from dense mineral or bone material.

To protect your dog’s teeth, it is best to avoid giving your dog things such as beef bones or pork bones, as this material can be too hard and commonly results in fractures and tooth damage.

Tooth Decay

Dogs’ teeth are prone to decay and wear and tear at a much faster rate than our own, which is partly due to the fact that they use their mouths for more than just eating and drinking.

They use their teeth to pick things up, carry things and chew things. In addition, a lot of things pass through a dog’s mouth, like slobbery toys, hair, dirt, feces and food. All of this can take a toll on the health of their teeth.

Some dogs (especially small breed dogs and Greyhounds) experience tooth decay at an extraordinarily fast rate, requiring many teeth to be extracted by a vet throughout their lifetime. 

To treat decayed teeth, your vet will likely recommend a professional cleaning be done under general anesthesia with the extraction or removal of any diseased teeth. This is a very common daily procedure for animal hospitals. 

A dog’s mouth is much more comfortable with the proper removal of a diseased tooth rather than leaving it as a source of pain and infection in their mouth. Surprisingly, dogs can eat perfectly well without any teeth if needed.  

Pay Attention to Your Dog’s Teeth

Keeping your pet’s mouth healthy is so important to their overall health and quality of life.

If you notice that your dog is losing teeth, has loose or wiggly teeth, or has progressively worsening breath, please set up a consultation with a veterinarian as soon as possible.

Even if it seems like they just lost one tooth, it is likely that your pet has more diseased teeth in their mouth causing discomfort that would benefit from removal. 

Don’t wait until your pet is not eating to get a dental consult with your veterinarian. Use your pet’s annual exam as an opportunity to discuss your dog’s teeth and overall dental health before there is a problem.  

By: Monica Tarantino

Featured Image: iStock.com/sdominick