Why do dogs have such toothy smiles?

Have you ever wondered why your dog has such a toothy grin?

Thu 28 Sep 2017

By Judy

Why do dogs have such toothy smiles?

Why do dogs have such toothy smiles?

Have you ever wondered why your dog has such a toothy grin? Well, the simple fact is that dogs have a third more teeth than humans. Dogs have 42 teeth compared to just 32 in humans.

The different type of dog teeth

When your dog reaches adulthood he will have 4 types of teeth:

  • Incisors - The incisors sit at the front of your dog's mouth, in between the large pointy canine teeth. The incisors are small flat teeth and are used for pulling at meat and also grooming. There are a total of 12 incisors, that's 6 at the top and 6 at the bottom of the  mouth.
  • Canines - Dogs have 4 canine teeth, 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom. Canine teeth are positioned either side of the incisors and are noticeably bigger than incisors. They are the large pointed teeth, often called fangs or dog teeth. They are used for getting a good grip on food and toys.
  • Premolars - Behind the canine teeth sit the premolars. These are large teeth with a unique shape that make them the perfect tool for chewing. Dogs have a total of 16 premolars, 4 on each side behind the canine teeth, both bottom and top. Curiously, the 4th upper premolars are the biggest teeth in a dog's mouth and are called the carnassial teeth.
  • Molars - Right at the back of your dog's mouth are the molars. These are big teeth with a flat surface. They are ideal for grinding up meat and powerful enough to grind up bones. Your dog will have a total of ten molars, that's 3 each side on the bottom and 2 molars each side on the top of the mouth.

Diagram of an adult dog's full set of teeth

diagram of dogs teeth

The importance of healthy teeth and gums in dogs

Keeping your dog's teeth and gums in good shape is really important. If a dog loses an tooth to decay it will not grow back. Poor dental health can cause unecessary pain, bad breath, inflamed gums and infections. In severe cases dental and gum problems can even affect the heart, liver and kidneys.It's estimated that around 80% of dogs have signs of periodontal (gum) disease by the age of 3 years. Periodontal disease is a bacterial disease caused by plaque forming around the gums and bone of the teeth.

Dogs are more prone to gum disease than humans due to the fact their mouths are more alkaline than ours, and of course very few of us brush our dog's teeth twice a day!

So what can we do to keep our dog's teeth and gums in good shape? Chewing on bones, kibble and toys all help sweep plaque away and reduce the risk of gum disease. If you feed your dog on a wet diet, it's a good idea to add a specific chew for teeth on a daily basis. This also applies to owners who feed their dog a dry kibble, but add water to soften them before serving.

How dental chews can help keep your dog's smile bright and white!

dentastix special offer

Chews for teeth cost less than 20p per day and can reduce the build up of plaque and tartar by up to 80%. The unique shape of DENTAstix ensures the chew is pushed towards the back of the mouth to clean the hard-to-reach premolars and molars. There's a suitable size of chew for all dog breeds too. Chews also provide a few minutes of fun and mental stimulation for your dog each day too!

Remember, most insurance policies do not cover dental problems so it's certainly money well spent.

POA top tips

  • Pop your DENTAstix in the fridge to keep them nice and firm, they will last a little bit longer and provide more cleaning power.
  • Remember to reduce portion sizes of regular meals if offering chews and treats throughout the day.
  • Always supervise your dog when offering chews and treats to prevent the risk of choking.

There are also tooth brushes and paste designed for dogs. These also do the job, but owners may find the experience messy and fiddly. Additionally, some dogs will not particulary enjoy the intrusion of having its teeth brushed.

Are some dog breeds more prone to dental problems than others?

Yes. Many short-muzzled breeds such as the Pug and the Shih Tzu have tiny jaws, meaning their teeth are often crowded in tightly which can lead to plaque build-up. The Shetland Sheepdog has a long and narrow muzzle and the breed often has an uneven bite which can lead to dental problems. Here's a few breeds that are prone to dental problems.