Puppy teeth are particularly sharp, and erupt from the gums in the jaw in a predictable timeline, referred to as puppy teething. Almost without exception, puppies are born without teeth. Deciduous teeth, or "milk teeth" begin to appear at about three weeks of age. By six to eight weeks of age, the puppy will have a full set of 28 baby teeth. During teething, your puppy may target all kinds of unexpected objects to gnaw and chew to relieve the discomfort. But most dogs never outgrow the urge to chew.
A puppy's age can be estimated by which teeth have erupted. While it can vary somewhat between breeds, here is the progression you can expect as your puppy develops new teeth.
- The incisors are the first to appear at about two to three weeks of age. Puppies have six incisors on both the top and bottom jaw at the front of the mouth.
- Four needle-like canines appear at age four weeks, and frame the incisors, one on each side, top and bottom.
- Premolars and molars begin to grow behind the canines at three to six weeks of age; there are three on the top and three on the bottom on each side.
- The last molars appear by six to eight weeks of age.
It's a good idea to begin handling your puppy's mouth while he's young. That way you can check for any tooth problems. It's also a great idea to get the young pup used to the idea of tooth brushing as early as possible.
Your Puppy’s Permanent Teeth
At about eight weeks of age, the puppy’s permanent teeth begin pushing out the milk teeth. The roots of the baby teeth are absorbed by the body, and in most cases, milk teeth simply fall out.
Permanent teeth replace the milk teeth tooth for tooth, but in addition add four premolars and ten molars. Most pups will have 42 permanent teeth in place by about seven months of age.
When the deciduous teeth don't fall out on time, the puppy may appear to have a double set of teeth. Retained baby teeth should be extracted by your veterinarian so that permanent teeth will have room to grow. Sometimes, a crowded mouth pushes teeth out of alignment, resulting in difficulty eating or poor dental hygiene that can lead to periodontal disease.
Different kinds of teeth serve various functions, based on the position in the mouth and the shape of the tooth. With some breeds, the conformation of the jaw also impacts how each type of tooth functions. Most dogs have V-shaped upper and lower jaws which allow the mouth to be opened very wide for grasping and capturing prey—or grabbing and holding toys during play
- Dogs use their incisors to rip and scrape meat from bone and secondarily as a grooming tool to nibble burrs or dirt from their fur.
- Two canine teeth are found on each side of the jaw, top and bottom. Dogs use these teeth as pointed daggers to inflict stabbing and slashing wounds.
- Dogs have eight premolars in the upper jaw, and another eight in the lower jaw.
- Finally, the dog has four molars in the top and six in the bottom. The extra molars that dogs have are designed to crush and are used to process vegetable foods and bone.
- Dogs also have specialized carnassial teeth composed of premolars and molars. As they pass each other during the mouth's closure, these teeth act like scissors. The carnassial teeth are innovations of the carnivorous animal that requires shearing action to process flesh.
A Proper Bite
When the mouth is closed the lower canine teeth are normally situated in front of the upper canines, the upper incisors overlap the lower, the upper premolar points fit into the spaces between lower premolars, and the upper carnassial teeth overlap the lower. That’s referred to as a normal “bite” and is very important so that the dog can eat and use his mouth normally, and is judged accordingly in show dogs.
Malocclusion refers to the abnormal "bite" or fitting of these teeth. Malocclusion can be normal for certain dog breeds due to differences in the shape of the jaw and mouth. For instance, the flat-faced (brachycephalic) dog breeds like Bulldogs have a normal malocclusion because their lower jaw is longer than the upper. But when the teeth fit incorrectly, they can cause mouth damage as the dog chews, and should be addressed by your veterinarian or even a veterinary dentist with orthodontia correction.