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Baby Teeth

Did you know that your puppies and kittens have baby teeth, just like in people? And just like with kids, they fall out and are replaced by a single set of permanent adult teeth! 


If you’re sharing your life with a puppy or kitten, I’m sure you know all about baby teeth. Your puppy will be testing them out on your ankles, and your kitten will be nibbling on anything and everything!

Here’s everything you need to know about your pet’s baby teeth:

How are my pet’s baby teeth different from their adult teeth? 

Baby teeth are much weaker than adult teeth. Yes, part of that is because they are smaller, but what I really mean is that these teeth are very hollow. This makes them fragile, and they are easy to shatter. A broken tooth is just begging to get infected from the general filth which grows inside a normal mouth. When this happens, adult teeth which are forming beneath the gum are easily damaged, as well. If your pet broke a baby tooth, it needs to be removed yesterday. 

Should I have a veterinarian examine my pet’s baby teeth? 

Base Narrow Baby Teeth

Yes. A thousand times, yes. Insist that your veterinarian pays very close attention to your pet’s baby teeth during their routine vaccination appointments. Every single day I will meet a puppy or kitten with baby teeth growing in the wrong spots. The pets are very sore because it means they are growing up into the gums, as opposed to next to the gum. It also means that, when the adult tooth comes through, it can be more likely to follow this wrong position of growth, and cause some major damage. That’s when you’re looking at doggy braces – and nope, that’s no joke!

The best treatment for baby teeth causing a malocclusion, or growing in the wrong spot, is to remove the baby tooth immediately. Do not wait.

A puppy’s mouth where the yellow arrows point to the baby canine tooth which is stabbing into the roof of the mouth, rather than sitting against the outside of the gum.

 

Underbite

A puppy with a severe underbite where the bottom canine tooth is sitting on the inside of the top canine tooth, stabbing into the roof of the mouth.

When do they all fall out? 

By the time our puppies and kittens are 6 months old, all of their baby teeth should be long gone. And in short order, the last of their adult teeth will be coming through. It’s super important that at this point, you have your veterinarian check your pet’s teeth. It’s very common that baby teeth don’t fall out, and instead sit side-by-side with adult teeth.
That’s a big no-no. Baby teeth that don’t fall out push the adult teeth into all sorts of wrong positions, which can sometimes cause the teeth to end up piercing through the roof of the mouth and even poking into the nose! Not only is that a big ouch for your pet, but it means big surgery, too. As well as pushing teeth into weird spots, the mouth doesn’t have any more room for extra teeth. The baby teeth end up jammed so close to the adult teeth that all sorts of fur and food get stuck between them, and the adult tooth becomes rotten and all hope for it is lost. Take a look at this retained baby tooth doing just that in one of our patients. 

 

Retained baby tooth

An adolescent dog where the top baby canine tooth hasn’t fallen out. Notice the adult canine tooth has been pushed backwards, and there is lots of rotten material stuck between the two teeth from overcrowding?

Who cares, they’re just teeth?

Who cares? You should care! You should care because your pet cares. A pet can live a perfectly fine life with no teeth at all, it’s true. I’ve seen it with my own eyes. However, cats and dogs use their mouth like we use our hands. Therefore, they use their teeth just like we use our fingers. Extracting permanent teeth can be just as debilitating as amputating a toe! Wherever possible, we should look to keep them around as much as we can. 

A dog that doesn’t have teeth left won’t chase a ball. Not because it stops being fun, but because they can’t pick it up. And that just breaks my heart.

Dr. Vicky Wade

Veterinarian