Like humans, dogs get two sets of teeth in their lifetime – their first set of baby teeth that they keep for just a few weeks, and their larger set of adult teeth, which they keep for the duration of their lives unless any teeth are lost due to dental diseases or injuries.
Dealing with a teething puppy can be challenging. You need to provide them with appropriate chew toys to help their teeth break through the gums, prevent them from chewing other things, and help them to manage pain and discomfort as well as checking for any signs of problems.
However, for most dogs with normal dentition, teething, growing in the two different sets of teeth at the right time and the natural loss of your pup’s baby teeth should all occur without incident. That said, much as is the case for people, problems can arise for pups when their adult teeth begin to descend from the gums, which can in some cases lead to baby teeth being retained alongside of the new adult teeth.
This most commonly occurs with the canine teeth, which are the four large, pointed teeth that grow at the sides of your dog’s incisors. However, retained puppy teeth can occur in any position, and this is something you should keep a look out for when your pup starts to get their adult teeth.
In this article, we will explain when and how to look for retained baby teeth in the puppy, why teeth might be retained, and what to do about it. Read on to learn more.
Puppies aren’t born with teeth, but they start to develop their baby set very young, and these start to push through the gums by the time your puppy reaches around three weeks of age.
The first baby teeth to develop are the incisors, and by the time your pup reaches around six weeks of age, all 28 of their baby or first set of teeth should have descended into place.
Puppies don’t keep their baby teeth for very long, and by the time your pup reaches the age of around three months old, their adult teeth will begin to descend. This signals the onset of puppy teething in earnest, and this is the time at which you are most likely to find that your pup chewing on things that they shouldn’t, and potentially suffering from dental pain as their adult teeth descend.
As the adult teeth begin to descend into position within the gums, they naturally push the baby teeth out of the way, loosening them so that they fall out naturally. However, you may not ever see or find any of these lost puppy teeth, as they tend to come out in food and are often eaten by the dog accidentally, which is not a problem and nothing to worry about!
By the time all of your pup’s adult teeth have descended, your pup will be aged between around six and eight months old, and will have a full set of 42 teeth in contrast to the puppy’s 28.
It is the adult teeth descending from the gums that pushes the baby teeth out of the way and leads to their loss, but if an adult tooth doesn’t descend fully, comes down at the wrong angle or is too large or small for its purpose, it may not push the baby tooth in the same slot out of the way.
This can result in your pup displaying two teeth in one or more positions where there should be just one, and this is called retained teeth. The two teeth in question may lay with one behind the other, or crowd the space – or the adult tooth may not descend fully, instead remaining fully or partially retained in the gum.
Retained milk teeth can indicate a dental problem, and can result in a crowded mouth, which means that your dog has too many teeth in place. This can lead to problems biting and chewing normally, and can also make your dog more prone to developing dental decay and gum disease, as there are more crevices to trap food particles and bacteria.
Additionally, if your dog has two teeth in places where there should be one, this is likely to cause pain, discomfort and pressure in some cases, as there simply isn’t enough room for all of the teeth to sit together comfortably.
An overcrowded mouth or teeth in strange positions can also affect your dog’s bite and the way that they close their jaw, and retained baby teeth and dental overcrowding tends to occur most commonly in brachycephalic dog breeds like the pug and the French bulldog.
When your puppy is teething and growing in their adult teeth, provide plenty of chew toys to ease the process and allow your dog to chew, helping the new teeth to break through the gum.
Check their teeth regularly and look for signs of double teeth, slots with no tooth present, and any sores, lumps, or other indications that might mean an adult tooth is stuck in the gum and unable to descend. Also, keep a lookout for baby teeth retained alone in a spot where all or most of the other teeth have been replaced with their adult counterparts.
If you spot any signs of problems or if you can’t see anything amiss but are concerned something is wrong, ask your vet to examine your pup’s mouth for retained teeth. If they do find double teeth or retained teeth, they may advise a dental procedure to correct the issue and remove any teeth that are causing a problem.
However, if the retained teeth aren’t causing any issues, your vet will probably advise you to leave them alone.