Puppies do not have any teeth present in the mouth at birth. Although, by the time they move to their new home from around 2 months of age, they will usually have a full set of deciduous (baby) teeth. Over the next few months, these deciduous teeth are replaced by the larger, permanent teeth. During this time, almost all puppies will show some signs of teething.
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Signs of Teething
Chewing, chewing and more chewing! Teething puppies will want to chew anything and everything – and so it is up to us to teach where to safely and appropriately direct this natural and inevitable behaviour. You might sometimes notice a small amount of blood on items your puppy has been chewing, or you may even occasionally find one of your puppy’s baby teeth on the ground after it has fallen out, although they are most often swallowed!
How long does teething last?
Whilst in children, signs of teething are usually only observed during the eruption of the baby teeth, it is very common to experience behaviour patterns related to teething in growing puppies right up until they have their full set of permanent teeth. The time taken to reach this point varies between breeds, but the permanent teeth are usually fully erupted by approximately 7 months of age. Generally speaking, I find that teeth in large breed dogs erupt sooner than those in small breed dogs.
How many teeth do puppies have?
Puppies have 28 deciduous teeth, which are smaller than the adult teeth but often surprisingly sharp. They are eventually replaced by a full set of 42 permanent teeth, all of which erupt before they reach adulthood – unlike humans, they do not have wisdom teeth!
Helping your puppy through the teething phase
It is easy to get frustrated by your puppy’s indiscriminate urge to chew. But rather than becoming exasperated by the fact that your puppy doesn’t know the difference between their toys and your most treasured possessions, steer them in the right direction. Give your puppy plenty of opportunities to chew objects that are both safe and permitted whilst teaching them what is out of bounds. These days you’re spoilt for choice, with an array of appropriate toys to choose from.
Teething safely – what to avoid
Although they will ultimately fall out, it is important not to harm the deciduous teeth because infection may damage the permanent teeth buds below. To help keep your puppy safe, it is sensible to avoid:
- Bones or antlers, as these are so hard they can easily damage the teeth and may cause fractures
- Sticks, as they can splinter and cause injury to the soft tissues in the mouth
- Anything that is small enough to pose a choking hazard
Problems with teething
The most common developmental dental problems affecting puppies are:
- Malocclusion: This is the term used to describe a situation where the upper and lower teeth do not line up properly. Whilst solely cosmetic problems do not need to be addressed, misaligned teeth that cause damage to the gums or opposing teeth warrant intervention.
- Retained deciduous teeth: This is when a permanent tooth erupts but the deciduous tooth also remains in place. If not removed, the retained teeth may alter the position of the permanent teeth, leading to malocclusion.
- Extra teeth or missing teeth: Additional (supernumerary) teeth can lead to malocclusion and/or overcrowding, with an associated increased risk of periodontal disease.
Frequently puppies do not show any outward signs of the above abnormalities, so they are usually picked up when the mouth is examined during a routine health check. It is helpful to get your puppy used to his or her mouth being examined from an early age.
In most cases, teething progresses uneventfully and – chewing aside – you probably won’t know too much about it. Over time you’ll notice that your puppy’s deciduous teeth have been replaced with their permanent counterparts. By about 7 months of age, your puppy should have finally completed the teething process. The reward? A shiny set of permanent teeth to show for it!
You may also be interested in;
- Shope, B., Mitchell, P. and Carle, D. (2019) Developmental Pathology and Pedontology. In Lobprise, H. and Dodd, J. (ed.) Wiggs’s Veterinary Dentistry: Principles and Practice. Second ed. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley Blackwell. pp. 63-80.