A puppy is born without teeth, but by five to eight weeks it will have twenty-eight puppy or ‘milk’ teeth, which seldom give trouble while being cut. At about four months—sometimes a little sooner—puppies other than toy dogs begin to change their teeth. The forty-two or forty-four permanent teeth are usually through by five months.
Toy dogs change their teeth a little later. It is generally the toy breeds that have trouble at this time; sometimes they appear unable to cast their milk teeth, which should be extracted when the permanent teeth come through. Overcrowding can be a problem, particularly in dogs with short muzzles. dIscoloration of teeth can be caused by the administration of certain antibiotics to the puppy or the mother before the teeth erupt.
Teeth troubles have become more common since the introduction of soft commercial foods, which allow accumulation of food debris (plaque) between the teeth and between the tooth and gum margin. Plaque in turn allows tartar to build up, causing discoloration and decay of the tooth. Sometimes gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and bad breath follow. Dry biscuits, fed at least once a day as part of the ration, will help keep the dog’s teeth in good order. A large shank bone with some tissue and tendon sheaths attached will help, as the time spent tearing and gnawing the bone will exercise and clean the teeth.
Check your dog’s teeth annually by pulling back the lips to expose the teeth at the rear of the mouth. Any accumulation of tartar (a yellow substance) should be removed. If this is impossible, or if the dog is uncooperative, visit the vet.
The only teeth that regularly cause a problem are the carnassial teeth, situated on either side of the upper jaw, towards the rear. They are massive teeth with triple roots which are subject to decay in aging dogs. The first sign of trouble is usually a swelling in the cheek, beneath the eye. The dog will show signs of discomfort and may go off its food; sometimes the eye will be inflamed. If the offending tooth is not removed, a sinus may break out over the swelling, discharging a foul-smelling pus.