Retained Deciduous Teeth In Dogs

The arrangement of the teeth in dogs is designed for tearing off large pieces of food and reducing the food to portions, which can be, swallowed whole with very little chewing. Dogs have therefore developed teeth with pointed crowns, long, deeply attached multiple and diverging roots, and space between the teeth. The best skull design for this function can be seen in the wolf or coyote. The teeth are straight and well spaced, the upper and lower teeth alternate like pinking shears and the canine or eye teeth interlock. Humans have been breeding dogs for centuries selecting for body and head types far different from that of the wolf. Along with this selection has come a host of problems, many of which are heritable. Malocclusion (the abnormal relationship of teeth to each other), crowding (the jaw is too short to accommodate all the teeth) and anomalous jaw size and length add to the problems created by retained deciduous teeth.

Puppies shed their deciduous or baby teeth between 4 and 6 months of age. Normally the permanent tooth bud grows in beneath and into the root of the deciduous tooth above. As the permanent tooth bud emerges it causes the root of the deciduous tooth to dissolve or resorb and the tooth cap or crown falls out when the attachment to the gum or gingiva finally lets go. Sometimes the process doesn't go right and results in a retained deciduous tooth or teeth. The permanent tooth erupts alongside the deciduous tooth, leaving the solidly anchored root of the deciduous tooth. Problems develop to varying degrees depending on the location and number of retained teeth. The two most common problems are crowding and malocclusion.

Crowding traps food particles, encourages plaque and calculus (tartar) formation and causes the development of early periodontal disease and premature tooth loss. Extracting the retained, rotated and crowded teeth will aid self cleaning and promote tooth and gum health.

Malocclusion can present serious problems. If there is not adequate room for the permanent teeth in the jaw, they are forced to erupt out of alignment, can interfere with teeth in the opposing jaw and can penetrate soft tissues -- causing pain, sores and infection. Many problems can be avoided if mal-positioned teeth are noticed early and extracted. This is why it is vitally important to have your puppy checked by your veterinarian every two to three weeks during its development between 6 weeks and 6 months of age. Dogs need and deserve life long dental care just as we humans do to maintain a healthy and pain-free mouth.

Dog Teeth