Monday, August 19, 2013

Baby Teeth: What the Veterinary Tooth Fairy Pays Out For Them.

Many people have a special affection for a specific breed. For some of us it is the first dog we ever had. The memories we carry through our adulthood drive us to find another second dog to relive and remind us of those long ago special times.

If you look around our clinic you will see lots of Labs (we are in Maryland after all), but we also have a large number of Jack Russells, and Boston Terriers.

This past week Boomer came in for his neuter. At six months old, he was right on time.

As I performed his pre-neuter exam I noticed that he still had his baby teeth.

For many smaller breed dogs, in particular the brachycephalic dogs, the baby teeth are reluctant to leave their spot as the adult (permanent) teeth erupt.

Retained baby teeth (correctly referred to as persistent deciduous dentition) occurs when the baby teeth root(s) do not resorb as they are supposed to. As the adult teeth are starting to grow and push up out of the gums they become crowded or even displaced by the unrelenting baby teeth. This causes the adult teeth that are trying to erupt in the mouth to become either mal-aligned or displaced and can this can cause bite problems. Can you imagine if your teeth were hitting the roof of your mouth every time you tried to close your mouth? Not only would the roof of your mouth hurt, but you wouldn't ever be able to close your mouth. They can also cause dental disease because the gums do not surround and support the teeth properly.

This puppy has retained upper and lower canines (cuspids).
The lower adult teeth are inboard (inside or lingual). These baby teeth are causing the adult teeth to be pushed inside the mouth. They need to be removed so the adult teeth erupt in the normal position.

Do you know which tooth is the adult and which is the baby?
As a veterinarian you better be sure if you are going to pull one!

A pet with retained baby teeth has a mouth that looks like a shark, little double rows of teeth trying to occupy the same foundation.

By the age of six months the baby teeth should have all moved out. If they have not it is time to talk to your vet about how to evict them.

Here is how the usual course of events happens at my clinic.
I see a pet for their kitten or puppy boosters every three weeks between about 8 weeks old and four months old. At every visit I check the teeth. We can estimate the age of a pet by their teeth and if they are not growing or losing teeth on the expected schedule we start to make plans for worst case scenario.

The baby tooth is to the left.
The brown crud in between the teeth is calculi, food, and if left will cause dental disease.

If the baby tooth is not lost by the four months old, (last puppy/kitten exam), then I recommend a re-check at 6 months old. At the 6 month exam we pull pre-op blood for the spay/neuter and perform another physical exam. If the tooth is still there I recommend extracting it at the time of spay/neuter.

Why is this so important? If you do not take that tooth out it will cause your pet problems. It can cause seriously dental disease, and jeopardize the teeth, the gums, and even your pets overall health.

If the baby tooth is left in the mouth long enough will cause bad breath. (Bad breath in almost all cases is because you have bad teeth).

This is Boomer. He has not lost his baby teeth and he is at the clinic at 6 months old for his neuter.

His mom knew that he would have his baby teeth removed today. And so he lost two testes and two baby teeth. (Do you think the tooth fairy doubles up on the booty?).

A routine neuter and a careful bilateral retained deciduous cuspid extraction and Boomer was out the door lickety-split.

There are a few pointers that I want to mention about this common and routine procedure.

  1. Talk openly with your vet about your pet/puppy/kittens teeth.
  2. You should know what to look for, which teeth are which, and be monitoring for worsening of the bite, the angle of the teeth, and for debris that often gets stuck in between the over crowded teeth.
  3. Ask if your veterinarian is comfortable with dental extractions? 

With all dental procedures it is very important to be careful that you do not injure the adult teeth as you remove the baby teeth.

It is also very important to remove the entire tooth root. Any pieces that are left behind can cause problems done the road.

For post op care I recommend;

  • softened food for about three days.
  • monitor for bleeding, swelling, or excessive drooling.
  • monitor the bite. If there has been some malalignment it may correct itself once the baby teeth are removed. If it does not correct see a veterinary dental specialist for long term resolution options.

Once those adult teeth are in its time to start brushing! Start those good habits early.

Did you know that it takes four days a week of constant year around brushing to adequately keep the teeth clean, free from debris and calculi, and the gums healthy? If you think that's a lot would you like to be brushing ONLY four times a week?

If you have any questions about this, or anything else pet related, or if you are a person who wants to help other pets, please join me on Twitter @Pawbly, or at our home Pawbly.

As always, always be kind.


  1. My 5 month old has a wicked set of shark teeth. She was a rescue ( not sure if there is any implication on that) and she has not last her nipping and biting. Should I be concerned? Or give it another month. She seems aggitated all the time with her mouth... She is on Blue food, she excercises, she's a Pug, forgot to mention. Anyway, she has chew toys but I have no blood or reason to think her chompers or loosening. Please help! Thank you.

    1. Hello Shannon,

      Baby teeth are sharp and they start to fall out at around 4 months old. The adult teeth are not as sharp and your puppy will probably be teething less as they erupt.

      They will fall out, and in almost all cases I show my clients that their puppy already has their adult teeth and they had no idea any of fallen out yet.

      Have fun with your baby! Those pugs are adorable!

      Thanks for reading!


  2. My almost 5 month old pit/austrailian shepherd has one baby tooth off to the side of the canine on the bottom that is still present with the adult one and it is gray in color. His breath has gotten kinda bad too in last couple weeks. It seems to b kinda loose. What should we do?

  3. My 4 1/2 mo old pit/ austrailian shepherd mix has a grayish baby canine beside his adult tooth. His breath has begun to smell also. At the moment I really don't have the money for an expensive vet visit. Any suggestions for me? It's fairly loose. Is it something we can do at home possibly even? Or should I let it go? He has a lot of dif chew toys n bones. Any ideas r greatly appreciated. Ty!

  4. My almost 5 month old pit/austrailian shepherd has one baby tooth off to the side of the canine on the bottom that is still present with the adult one and it is gray in color. His breath has gotten kinda bad too in last couple weeks. It seems to b kinda loose. What should we do?

    1. Hello Kara,
      The tooth needs to be looked at closely by your vet to decide whether this is loose enough to fall out by itself. If not, have it removed when he is neutered.
      He NEEDS to be neutered and vaccinated. So please call the vet and ask for an estimate on the cost for all of the things he needs and start saving. Christmas is around the corner, maybe you could ask for this instead of presents?
      Good Luck,

  5. Our 6mth old pup has the same thing as in your pictures with the retained lower canines and lower adult teeth coming inboard. We're not sure if we should remove them and they'll realign or what if we remove them but still grow in inboard? Once you removed the retained teeth, did the adult teeth realign correctly? What are the chances/percentage for them to realign back to normal? Or is the risk of putting them under not worth trying to pull them out to realign (like they won't align that much)? Sorry for all the questions, just super concerned :(

    1. Hello,
      The chances of the jaw realigning perfectly depend on how early the teeth are removed and how the mouth grows. At this age I would doubt the jaw will realign perfectly. In some cases perfect isnt vital,, but each case is different and the best answers and best cases of complete alignment lie at the veterinary dental specialists office. You can search for one locally at "veterinary boarded dental specialty".