Just like humans, dogs have baby teeth and adult teeth. The number varies between puppies and adult, so the answer to the question “how many teeth do dogs have” varies by age.
Puppies need their teeth for different reasons than adult dogs. For the first few weeks of life, they don’t need teeth at all – all their nourishment comes from their mother’s milk. At that age, they don’t have any teeth, at least not visible. At around 4 weeks of age, their baby teeth start to come in. These teeth, about 28 of them, are mainly canines and incisors – the sharper teeth at the front and sides of their mouths. They won’t be chewing a lot of difficult food, so they only need these teeth.
As they develop towards adulthood, their baby teeth fall out to make room for their adult teeth. If your puppy starts to lose teeth between 4 and 6 months old, don’t worry. This is normal, like a kindergartener losing his first tooth. At this stage, puppies are often uncomfortable and go through a teething stage, just like human babies. To relieve their discomfort, they chew on anything they can. That’s why you may come home to find your favorite shoes in pieces.
Once all their adult teeth have come in, your dog will have around 42 permanent teeth. This includes the adult version of canines and incisors they had as puppies, plus molars. Occasionally, a dog will have a tooth or two that doesn’t come in. If it causes pain, it may need to be extracted. Once adult teeth are in, these are it, so you need to take care of them. It’s estimated that 80% of dogs over age 2 have some form of dental disease. Dental disease takes many forms, such as:
• Chronic bad breath – this is a common symptom that signals something is wrong.
• Gingivitis (inflamed gums) – reversible with treatment.
• Periodontal disease – infection between the teeth and gums. Very painful and may require tooth extraction.
• Cysts and tumors – lumps that form in the gums. May require drainage or surgery.
How many teeth do dogs have? Depending on their life stage, they will have anywhere from 0 to 42 teeth. With the proper care, your dog will get to keep all 42 of those teeth the rest of his life.
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Photo credit: Stuart Pilbrow