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How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have? The Dental Truth

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Humans don’t use their teeth for all that much. Okay, so we DO, but we’re not supposed to. (Admit it, you’re biting a pen or pencil right now) Dogs, on the other hand, use their teeth throughout their daily lives. Of course, those canine smiles go to work on meals, but there’s more to it. They pick up objects around the house and yard. And while not every breed’s as fastidious as a cat, dogs use their teeth for grooming. Those pearly whites serve important functions. Have you ever taken the time to give them proper consideration? Do you know much about dog teeth? How many teeth do dogs have in their mouths? What kinds of teeth are there? When do puppies get their teeth? If you haven’t considered those questions before, you probably are now. And we have all of the answers you’re looking for.

Dog Teeth: The Basics

When you consider structure, dog teeth don’t look all that different from ours. The inside of the tooth consists of pulp. The pulp holds the living tissue of the tooth. This includes the nerves and blood supply. It’s protected by three layers of organic minerals: cementum, dentine, and enamel. That’s where the difference comes in, though. “Dog teeth have significantly less enamel than humans: roughly 0.1-1 millimeter for dogs, and up to 2.5 millimeters for humans,” according to Dr. Brenda L. Mulherin, Board-Certified Veterinary Dentist and Clinical Professor at the Lloyd Veterinary Medical Center at Iowa State University. Enamel’s HARD, but dog teeth can break and erode easier than ours because of the thinner structure.

Types of Dog Teeth

Dogs have four types of teeth. (So do we) Moving from the front of the mouth to the back:

  • Incisors: These small teeth sit in the very front. Your dog uses them to grab things and in the grooming process.
  • Canines: Everyone knows the canines. They look like fangs. They have a slight curve, allowing for a better grip.
  • Premolars: As you move further back, the teeth start to flatten out. Dogs use their premolars to grind up their food.
  • Molars: These are the big teeth at the very back. They do the bulk of the grinding work, making food easy to swallow.

When you take your dog to the vet for a dental check-up, they use a dental chart to check every tooth. It helps the technician and doctor look for missing teeth and take notes on the health of the teeth that ARE there. They take measurements, note any damage, mark how bad the tartar may be, and record the treatments performed. The chart then becomes part of your dog’s medical record. Each time they go in, the vet can refer to the old chart to look for changes.

Dog teeth require frequent check-ups at the vet


Puppies are born without teeth. (For which mommy dogs are grateful) Around three weeks old, puppies start to develop tooth buds that will give rise to their deciduous teeth. Deciduous teeth are also known as baby, milk, or primary teeth. (“Deciduous” refers to the fact that they fall out. In autumn, deciduous trees lose their leaves) Then those needle-sharp puppy teeth start to come in.

Why do puppies have teeth that HURT so much? They’re still growing. This means the jaw holding the teeth isn’t very strong. The extra edge on those primary teeth gives a puppy help in the chewing department. It’s compensation while the little pup starts exploring the world. The teething process works the jaw muscles, building up the strength to hold the permanent teeth. No one likes getting a nip from those needles, which is why it’s important to start training with your puppy early. You also want to introduce proper chew toys. Puppies teethe FAST. And if they don’t have chew toys, they’ll find substitutes. (Say, your shoes or the furniture) Don’t go TOO hard, though. Puppy teeth aren’t strong. Marrow bones, nylon toys, and ice cubes will damage the deciduous teeth.

Puppies have 28 teeth, broken into the categories you see below.

Type of ToothNumber of Upper TeethNumber of Lower TeethAge of Appearance
Incisor664-6 Weeks
Canine223-5 Weeks
Premolar665-6 Weeks


Between three weeks and four months, puppies start to replace those baby teeth with permanent teeth. You’ll also see people call these their secondary teeth (or adult teeth). The permanent tooth develops above the baby tooth, creating pressure against the root. So the baby tooth responds by resorbing its root. It’s a fancy term for the body dissolving the cementum. With no root to hold the tooth in place, the crown falls out. (In case you wondered, when you were a kid, you placed the crown of your tooth under your pillow for the Tooth Fairy) You may find the hollow remain of the crown in your puppy’s bedding or on the floor. Odds are, though, your puppy will swallow it. Which is okay! It’s a little extra mineral content and completely safe for digestion. The open space then allows the permanent tooth to slide in.

As adults, dogs have 42 teeth. (And in case you wondered, humans have 32 teeth) This is when the final dog teeth pop up, and the table below gives you an idea of when each type of dog tooth makes an appearance.

Type of ToothNumber of Upper TeethNumber of Lower TeethAge of Appearance
Incisor662-5 Months
Canine225-6 Months
Premolar884-6 Months
Molar464-7 Months

Problems with Dog Teeth

A proper dental health regime starts as soon as you bring your puppy home. The sooner you start your kiddo with toothpaste, the easier the process gets down the road. Besides, you want to protect the delicate enamel, right? It takes more than chew toys to do that. Because there are PLENTY of problems lurking out there, determined to take out those precious dog teeth.

Everyone loves a healthy canine smile

Persistent Teeth

Unfortunately, baby teeth don’t always follow the rules. Sometimes they decide to hang out, even after a permanent tooth has moved into place. This results in a common dental problem for dog teeth known as a persistent tooth. The presence of a deciduous tooth where the permanent tooth is SUPPOSED to fit means the adult tooth has to shift somewhere else. And that abnormal position? It spells trouble for your dog’s mouth. Your dog can end up with crowding, abnormal contact, and A LOT of pain.

The most common persistent dog teeth are the canines. After that, you see problems with the incisors. However, any dog tooth can decide not to cooperate. Small breeds, especially the Chihuahua, are famous for persistent teeth. And due to their skulls’ shape, brachycephalic breeds such as French Bulldogs and Pugs often struggle with persistent teeth.

Two teeth trying to share the same spot can cause plenty of issues:

  • Trapped food
  • Pain
  • Infection
  • Abnormal wear
  • Fractures

As soon as you see a persistent dog tooth, your pup needs to get to a vet. They can remove the stubborn baby tooth. Then the permanent tooth has room to fit where it belongs. It IS an anesthetic procedure, but your vet’s the best person to ensure no damage occurs to the permanent tooth’s roots. (Your dog probably wants to keep that tooth if it’s healthy) And the sooner the problem’s addressed, the better. Left untreated, your dog may face severe malocclusion down the road. Then you’ll need to see a Veterinary Dental Specialist to get those dog teeth in the right place.

Periodontal Disease

As soon as disease infiltrates dog teeth, the mouth starts to develop problems. Decaying teeth ARE painful. And they also have implications throughout your dog’s body. As bacteria from the mouth gains access to the bloodstream, it enters all of your dog’s other organs. You don’t want that! Brushing and regular dental cleanings help prevent periodontal disease from taking root in your dog’s teeth.

And, unfortunately, dog teeth have that thinner layer of enamel. This means they wear down faster. Add in that many breeds have a natural tendency towards decay, and you want to stay ahead of the game. Greyhounds are the poster children for tooth decay. We’re FANATIC about our girl’s teeth. She gets her dental treats AND brushings because we want to keep her mouth as healthy as possible. If you have a tiny breed (or another decay-prone breed), step up to the plate. You won’t regret the work!

All the Doggie Smiles

Dog teeth help your canine investigate and participate in the world around them. And if you pay close attention and engage in active dental care, your pup’s smile will remain healthy for years to come. From puppies to seniors, there’s always a little bit of work you can do. The effort will be worth it.

Especially when you see that happy canine grin.

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Andria Kennedy

Andria Kennedy

Andria grew up in a pet-friendly household. On weekends, the family made trips to zoos and aquariums in the area. So it wasn’t a surprise when she gravitated toward a career with animals.

After six years working among the background operations at the Philadelphia Zoo, she gained a unique insight into the veterinary world. The vet staff provided her first lessons in terminology, the identification of medical equipment, and glimpses of radiographs (x-rays). She also enjoyed plenty of opportunities to talk with everyone, including the veterinary technicians. And they offered an alternative for someone NOT interested in surgical pathways: Namely, their course of study.

Andria enrolled at Harcum College. Philadelphia boasts two programs for vet techs, but only Harcum works with the Ryan Veterinary Hospital and New Bolton Center (University of Pennsylvania’s small and large animal facilities, respectively). Harcum’s vet tech students receive six months of hands-on teaching and experience alongside Penn’s vet students.

With the opportunities and connections available with one of the top veterinary schools, the decision was easy for her to make.

New Bolton Center: Large Animal Medicine
Andria ended up trudging through snow up to the knee and shivering in subzero temperatures during her winter semester, but she wasn’t disappointed with her choice. New Bolton provided a thorough grounding in large animal medicine. A horse-lover as a child, the experience renewed those old emotions.

And a few memories stood out and remained to this day:

  • Standing alongside a Clydesdale and feeling TINY
  • Holding the reins of a horse galloping at top speed on a treadmill
  • Nursing tiny foals through the first days of their life

Ryan Veterinary Hospital: Small Animal Medicine
Veterinary students can legally work at a practice while studying. Andria took advantage of the opportunity, gaining “real life” experience while attending class. It provided a slight advantage when she entered her three months at the small animal hospital.

However, as Ryan Veterinary Hospital offers treatments unique to the veterinary community, she continued to gain valuable experience. For instance, she spent a day working alongside their Chemo Team. The positivity of everyone she encountered – staff, clients, and patients alike – left a lasting impression.

Additional standout moments included:

  • An afternoon spent with the head of the feline kidney transplant program
  • A day serving as the anesthesia technician in their new radiation unit
  • Recognizing a radiograph of a giant elephant shrew (applying her previous zoo knowledge)

Emergency/ICU Veterinary Technician
Accompanying her Associate of Science in Veterinary Technology, Andria received a passing score on the Veterinary Technician National Exam (VTNE). The two led to her certification/license as a veterinary technician – first in Pennsylvania (CVT) and later in Virginia (LVT).

Emergency medicine appealed to her from the beginning. The flux of ailments, injuries, and even species kept her mind sharp at all times. The knowledge required to handle cats, dogs, exotics, and even wildlife is highest in an ICU setting. When a vet tech never knows the patient’s stability coming back to the treatment area, skills and the ability to respond in an instant always stay in peak shape.

With treatments evolving at a constant basis, Andria sought out the best Continuing Education opportunities. She attended the International Veterinary Emergency and Critical Care Society (IVECCS) Conference whenever possible. This allowed her to discuss the latest wound treatments, medications, and advancements in diet formulations.

Cardiology Veterinary Technician
With the increased knowledge and experience, Andria noticed gaps in her abilities. Her grasp of cardiology remained at the basic level. She wanted to boost her skills and understanding as much as possible, improving her patient care. When an opportunity within the practice arose to move into the cardiology department, she accepted.

She sharpened her ability to read ECGs, recognizing arrhythmias of every type. Speaking with the cardiologist, she learned to read echocardiograms, picking out the most common disease processes. And, courtesy of her position in the department, she took in everything she could regarding the grain-free diet concern.

And throughout her ten-year career, she built her store of client interactions. She learned stories of heartbreak and hope. In the middle of the night, she shared touching and humorous conversations. Every moment taught her to engage with people. And the skill blended into her writing ability, capturing the interest of pet-lovers everywhere.

Check out Andria’s LinkedIn here

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