Dogs rely on their teeth to do much more than eat. That’s why adult dogs have incisors for nibbling food, front fangs (also called canines) for grabbing and puncturing, premolars for tearing and molars for crushing bone.
Dogs, like humans, get two sets of teeth. With most breeds, puppies have 28 teeth and adult dogs have 42 adult teeth in their mouths.
Anyone who has raised a child knows that teething can be a difficult time. The same is true with puppies. Adult teeth push the baby or puppy teeth out. That is why it is important to provide your puppy with chew toys throughout the worst of the teething stages, which last from about three to seven or eight months of age.
Puppies get their baby teeth between the ages of three and six weeks. Because there is little need for the grinding of food at this age, puppies do not have molars.
At about four to four months of age, the adult teeth begin to develop and push the puppy teeth out of the way. The first teeth to fall out to make way for the new ones are the puppy incisors. The fangs are next to go. The premolars fall out last.
Usually, a puppy’s body will absorb the roots of puppy teeth. If the puppy tooth does not yield to the incoming tooth, it should be removed because it can cause a malocclusion or bad bite. Unfortunately, this situation can lead to problems later.
A typical dog has six incisors on each of the lower and upper jaws. These are used for nibbling meat from bones, as well as self-grooming. Because dogs are pack animals, they will also groom each other with the incisors.
The canine teeth or fangs are used to grab and tear prey. They are used for defense, as well as holding objects in their mouths.
There are four premolars on each of the upper and lower jaws located directly behind the canines. These teeth allow the dog to tear off hunks of meat from their captured prey.
Although most dogs no longer have to hunt for their own food, they still retain these teeth and use them to chew on bones, rawhides and/or chew toys.
The top jaw holds two molars on each side. The bottom jaw has three on each side. Dogs use molars to crush bones and large snack biscuits.
By the time a puppy reaches eight weeks of age, he or she should have a full mouth of teeth. A general rule of thumb is that larger dogs develop adult teeth sooner than smaller dogs.
It is important to maintain your puppy’s teeth so that they are replaced with healthy adult ones. Teach your puppy at an early age to allow you to check his or her mouth.
All dogs require their teeth to be brushed to maintain good dental health. A puppy’s diet can also be an important factor in a dog’s dental health.