Puppies are born without any visible teeth. Around 3 weeks of age their puppy teeth, or “deciduous teeth”, begin to erupt from the gum line. By about 4 months of age, puppies will have a full set of 28 deciduous teeth. At about 3.5 to 4 months of age, a puppy’s adult teeth will begin to develop.
As they grow, these adult teeth will press on the roots of the deciduous teeth. This promotes the resorption of the root of the deciduous tooth, eventually causing the crown (or visible portion) of the deciduous tooth to fall out. By the age of 6-7 months, your puppy will have a full set of 42 adult teeth.
A retained deciduous tooth occurs when the root of the deciduous tooth is only partially resorbed or is not resorbed at all. This means your puppy will have two teeth existing in a spot meant for one single tooth. Retained deciduous teeth cause crowding in the mouth, as well as improper positioning of the adult teeth. Malposition of the adult teeth can cause a variety of issues for your pet, including an excess build up of tartar, improper bite (or malocclusion), teeth rubbing against each other or soft tissue structures causing inappropriate wear and pain, and often premature loss of adult teeth later in life. Retained deciduous teeth will lead to early periodontal disease, which is painful for your pet and requires surgical correction and general anesthesia. The most commonly retained deciduous teeth are canine teeth and incisors, though any deciduous tooth can be retained.
Removing retained deciduous teeth in a timely manner is important for avoiding dental complications. The removal of retained deciduous teeth requires general anesthetic to facilitate extraction of the tooth. As adult teeth are typically done developing by 6 to 7 months of age, having these removed at the time of your dog’s spay or neuter avoids multiple anesthetics at a young age. Regular puppy visits with your veterinarian will allow your vet to monitor the growth of your puppy’s teeth. If your puppy has retained deciduous teeth, please contact your veterinarian.
Written by Jenna Marsh