By Matt Soniak
There’s enough to think about and keep track of when caring for a puppy—feeding, walking, training, housebreaking (and don’t forget playtime!)—that you might not give their teeth a whole lot of thought. But in their first eight months or so, puppies will develop two sets of teeth, and there’s more to caring for those chompers than just making sure they don’t leave marks on your furniture legs.
Here’s all information you need to know about those cute (and sharp!) little puppy teeth.
How Many Teeth Do Puppies Have?
In the beginning, none. Like us, dogs are born toothless. Puppies will quickly develop a set of 28 teeth, though, and as adults they’ll have 42.
When Do Puppies Get Their Teeth
“Puppy teeth erupt starting at about 2 weeks of age, and are usually completely in by about 8-10 weeks old,” says Dr. Kris Bannon, veterinarian and owner of Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery of New Mexico. The incisors often come in first, followed by the canine teeth and the premolars, although there can certainly be some normal variation between individuals.
Do Puppies Lose Their Teeth?
Puppies develop and lose a set of “baby” teeth just like humans do. These teeth, sometimes known as “milk teeth” and referred to as “deciduous teeth” by vets, eventually give way to permanent “adult” teeth.
At What Age Do Puppies Lose Their Teeth?
“The first teeth are usually lost at about 4 months of age,” Bannon says. “The last of the baby teeth to fall out are usually the canines, and they are lost at about 6 months old.”
At What Age Do Puppies Get Their Permanent Teeth?
“The permanent teeth start to erupt as soon as the baby teeth start to fall out,” Bannon says, and they come in in the same order as the baby teeth. Dr. Alexander Reiter, head of the Dentistry and Oral Surgery Service at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine, says the incisors start to come in at around 2-5 months of age, then the canine teeth at 4-6 months, the premolars at 4-7 months and finally the molars (which only come in as part of the permanent set) at 5-7 months. By the time a dog is 7 or 8 months old, he should have all of his permanent teeth.
How to Care for a Teething Puppy
Dr. Reiter says that the discomfort of puppy teething is often over dramatized. If the puppy is still engaging in normal activities like eating, drinking, socializing, grooming and exploring, then there isn’t really a problem. If the dog isn’t doing some of these things, he says, and the pain or discomfort is affecting his quality of life, then the puppy may need to see the vet.
“There is not much for the owners to do during the transition,” Bannon says. “The best thing is for the owners to supply good, safe chews so that the dog can teethe on appropriate items.” Look for toys that are soft, flexible and bend easily in your hand. “If it is too hard to bend, flex or break, it is too hard to give to the dog,” Bannon says.
What to do When A Puppy Starts Losing His Teeth
Both Bannon and Reiter recommend letting the baby teeth fall out on their own, and advise against trying to pull loose teeth out. The teeth have very long roots, Bannon says, and pulling the teeth can break the root, leading to an infection.
The exception is if a baby tooth is not loose, and the permanent tooth is coming up in the same space. “If the tooth remains in place while the adult tooth is coming in, this causes a disruption in the location of the adult tooth, causing an occlusion problem (a bad bite),” Bannon says. “We also see periodontal disease which occurs very quickly when there is crowding.” In these cases, you should schedule an appointment with your veterinarian to have the baby tooth removed.
How to Take Care of Puppy Teeth
Reiter recommends getting your puppy used to you touching his mouth early on. “Raise their lips and touch their gums and teeth in a slow, playful way,” he says. This will not only make it easier for you to introduce a dental care regimen and recognize any oddities or problems with their teeth or mouths, it’ll also prime the pup for their veterinarian’s oral examinations.
Reiter and Bannon both recommend brushing your dog’s teeth regularly. Reiter says you should use a toothbrush with the softest bristles you can find. Human toothbrushes are okay, and kid’s size brushes are great for small breeds. Brush using just warm water, he says, or a toothpaste made for dogs—toothpastes made for humans shouldn’t be used because dogs don’t rinse and spit like we do, and the fluoride and other ingredients in our toothpaste can harm them.
For dental treats, both vets suggest looking for one accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). “The VOHC is an independent council that reviews studies that products have done to prove their dental claims,” Bannon says. “So if a product says that it’s good for dental health, the VOHC reviews the studies that to prove it. If they have met their claims, they get a VOHC seal of approval.”
Interesting Facts About Puppy Teeth
- While the number of teeth a dog has is pretty consistent across breeds, some breeds and individual dogs may have different numbers of permanent teeth. Reiter says that breeds with shorter snouts, like pugs, sometimes have fewer teeth because their smaller mouths can’t accommodate a full set of 42.
- Dogs are toothier than cats (who have 30 permanent teeth) and humans (who have 32).