Dr. Kovac's Case of the Month: Canine Baby Teeth

By Dr. Heather Kovacevich

Salty, a 9 month old male Toy Poodle, presented for a routine examination prior to neutering. He was doing great at home. On examination, I found four extra teeth in his mouth. All four of his baby canine teeth were retained, meaning they did not fall out on their own. This is a very common problem that we see in toy breed dogs, especially poodles, Chihuahuas, and Yorkshire terriers. When these teeth fail to fall out, they cause crowding of the permanent teeth and lead to more rapid tartar build-up and can also cause shifting of the permanent teeth.

Reasons It’s Important to Extract Baby Teeth:


  • Cause crowding of permanent teeth



  • Increased tartar buildup



  • Increased risk of tooth fracture


If the baby teeth have not fallen out by 9 months of age, it is very unlikely that they will fall out on their own. Normally, the roots of the baby teeth dissolve under the gumline so that the crown is the only portion of the tooth that actually "falls out". All dogs (no matter the breed) have 28 baby teeth and 42 permanent teeth. Humans, on the other hand, have 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent teeth.

A few days later, Salty was anesthetized for his procedure. Once the neuter was finished, I extracted the baby teeth using a dental elevator. The roots of the teeth are very long (longer than the length of the visible crown of the tooth) and must be carefully and slowly teased from the socket, taking care not the break the root.

The gum tissue heals very quickly, within a few days. Salty was placed on a short course of a pain medication post-operatively. He recovered very well.

One of the reasons The Drake Center recommends waiting until about 6 months of age for neutering small breed dogs is to ensure that if a retained baby tooth is diagnosed, the procedure can be paired with the anesthesia for neutering.

Another less common dental problem we sometimes see in puppies is called a malocclusion. This means the dog has an abnormal bite. If the upper jaw (maxilla) is longer than the lower jaw (mandible) the dog will have an "overbite." When this occurs, the lower canine teeth may hit the hard palate (roof of the mouth) and cause pain for the dog.

We will often extract the lower baby canine teeth to prevent the sharp baby teeth from injuring the hard palate. After the dog is fully grown, we will then reassess the position of the permanent teeth to determine if the dog still has a painful bite. If so, we then refer these dogs to the veterinary dentist for a procedure called a vital pulpotomy and crown reduction. The saves the tooth but makes it shorter so it will not cause a problem for the dog during its lifetime.

Our goal for your pet: a happy healthy pain free smile for life!


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