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Top 10 Dog Dental Questions… and the Answers!

February 5, 2015

Dogs are remarkable creatures. From the tip of their cold noses to the ends of their wagging tails, canine anatomy is as beautiful and graceful as it is unique and fascinating. The mouth, teeth and skull of dogs are incredibly well adapted to meet the needs of one of nature’s most perfectly designed scavengers. The oral cavity of the dog is also the source of many myths and misunderstandings that lead to some potentially serious problems. Here are some of the most common, interesting and important dental questions regularly asked in a veterinary practice.

1. How many teeth do dogs have?

The average adult dog has about a third more teeth than his human counterpart. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth compared to a measly 32 average human teeth (not counting any wisdom teeth. Those are “bonus.”). Puppies possess 28 baby teeth while human babies will have 20 deciduous or “baby” teeth.

2. When do dogs begin to lose their baby teeth?

Puppies begin losing baby teeth around 12 to 16 weeks of age. By four months of age, almost all of a pup’s deciduous teeth have been shed and many of the permanent teeth have already erupted and are in place.

3. Can you tell how old a dog is by looking at his teeth?

The answer is, it depends. When dogs are young, you can estimate their age by observing which teeth have erupted. For example, a puppy’s deciduous incisors typically erupt between 4 to 6 weeks of age and the permanent incisors are in place by 12 to 16 weeks. The canines or “fang teeth” emerge at 3 to 5 weeks and the permanent canines by 12 to 16 weeks. By the time the permanent molars are present, the dog is 4 to 6 months old. In general, once a dog reaches six months of age, all or least most of his permanent teeth are visible.

Once the adult teeth are in place by about 6 months, it’s anyone’s guess. Many veterinarians and dog lovers claim they can determine a dog’s age by gauging the amount of wear on the teeth. Maybe. What if a young dog chews on hard things? That could lead to a three-year old stray dog mistakenly being categorized as a senior dog on the basis of worn teeth, resulting in a lower chance of adoption. Not good. It is possible this myth of aging dogs by their teeth started with horses. Horses’ teeth erupt over a five-year period (”full mouth at five”), wear at somewhat established rates and you can get a ballpark guess of the age of a horse by careful examination of teeth. The same isn’t true for man’s best friend. Or man. Guessing a dog’s age must include much more than simply the current state of his teeth.

…stay tuned for the next installment of The Top 10 Dog Dental Questions…and the Answers coming soon.

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