Like humans, dogs are not born with their teeth erupted. Another similarity is that dogs get two sets of teeth in their lives, though the process of the baby teeth appearing, falling out, and being replaced by permanent teeth is thankfully abbreviated, taking less than a year to complete.
Puppies use their mouths to explore their world. While pups may sometimes “explore” things they shouldn’t—like your shoes—they aren’t doing it out of maliciousness. They are familiarizing themselves with the world and may just need extra attention and redirection.
The Timeline of Puppy Tooth Loss and Growth
Baby Teeth in Puppies
Not unlike humans, puppies start life without visible teeth, allowing for easier suckling. Around the time they start weaning off milk, puppies begin to grow sharp teeth known as deciduous teeth (also called “baby teeth”, “needle teeth”, or “milk teeth”), which help them make the transition from a solely liquid diet to one that incorporates solids.
Depending on the dog’s breed, these baby teeth may show up anytime between three to eight weeks of age. In total, puppies grow 28 needle teeth, beginning with incisors (the short front teeth), canines (the longer, fang-like teeth beside the incisors), then premolars (the teeth behind the canines). Puppies do not have deciduous molars.
Adult Dog Teeth
These deciduous teeth don’t stick around for very long: roughly a month after these teeth appear, they start to fall out, generally beginning with the incisors. Adult teeth will begin to fill in when the pup is around two to five months of age, either replacing empty spots or pushing out the remaining baby teeth.
As your pup loses its sharp baby teeth, you may find them around the house; however, it is also possible that your dog may swallow the shed teeth, which is normal and is nothing to worry about. Your pup may also bleed a little after losing a tooth, but any bleeding should only be minimal.
Most pups will grow 42 permanent teeth to replace the 28 baby teeth. As with the puppy teeth, these adult teeth begin with the incisors; however, in contrast with puppy teeth, the premolars and molars may begin to break through earlier than the canine teeth.
While the permanent tooth timeline is not exactly the same for every dog, you can expect the incisors to show up when the dog is two to five months old, the canines at five to six months old, the premolars at four to six months old, and the molars at four to seven months old.
By seven to eight months of age, your dog should have grown all of their permanent teeth.
What Does Teething Look Like?
In the same way that both dogs and human children experience the growth and loss of their baby teeth, both human babies and dogs undergo the painful—or, at least, uncomfortable—process of teething.
Because a pup’s tooth loss and growth cycle is shorter than a human’s, teething in dogs occurs for a shorter period of time: generally about seven months, though the chewing behavior may continue for longer. The part that is most uncomfortable during teething is not the loss of the baby teeth, but rather the eruption of the permanent teeth, which can cause the gums to ache or become inflamed.
It should not hurt your dog to lose their baby teeth; in fact, throughout the process most pups are very energetic, curious, and playful. However, if your dog seems very reluctant to chew or eat food, a trip to the vet might be a good idea.
Deciduous teeth generally fall out on their own without additional coaxing. You should not try to remove your puppy’s baby teeth, primarily because doing so may not remove the entire tooth, leaving the root behind to potentially fester and cause health complications.
Sometimes time is the best remedy since the adult tooth that grows in may force out the stubborn baby tooth. If a deciduous tooth is hanging on for too long or is crowding the new adult tooth, it would be best to consult a vet.
Will My Dog Always Bite Things They Shouldn’t?
Even though a dog’s teething stage is relatively short-lived, certain behaviors developed during teething, such as unwanted chewing or biting, may continue beyond the teething stage.
Though it is a good idea to encourage wanted behaviors and discouraged unwanted behaviors in young dogs, it is also important to consider that dogs interact with the world via their mouths (in part because they don’t have thumbs and hands to handle things with).
A puppy chewing on your shoes may be trying to soothe discomfort related to teething, but they also may just be exploring their novel surroundings. It is also possible that this behavior may be associated with boredom, or may become a habit the dog picks up while teething.
The best thing to do to redirect a pup who is trying to teethe on things they shouldn’t is to either distract them from chewing altogether or to encourage them to instead chew on something appropriate, such as soft, flexible toys or chews.
Many teething puppies are comforted by cold objects or food such as a wet towel that has been put in the freezer, or frozen bananas or strawberries. A wet rope that has been frozen can provide a soothing sensation as the pup plays tug with you or simply chews on it.
Even though most pups make it through the teething process without any problems, certain health issues may still arise related to tooth growth and loss.
Distemper in Puppies Can Affect Teething
One such complication that can affect the growth of teeth is distemper. Puppies whose adult teeth have not yet emerged who have canine distemper—which can be prevented through vaccination—may end up with permanent teeth that are poorly formed or weak due to a lack of enamel.
Poor teeth like these can lead to periodontal disease and further health complications as the dog ages; for this reason, it is important to make sure your pup is up-to-date with all of their vaccinations.
Deciduous Teeth In Puppies That Won’t Fall Out
Another issue that dogs may face while teething, as previously mentioned, are deciduous teeth that won’t budge even when the adult teeth start to grow in. Crowding can cause problems with the dog’s bite, which in turn can cause problems with chewing and can contribute to dental health concerns.
While this could happen to any dog, it is more common in some toy and short-nosed breeds. If your dog has puppy teeth that are crowding their adult teeth, you should check with a vet to see if the problem teeth need to be pulled.
Behavioral Issues When Puppy is Teething
When puppies are getting their adult teeth, it often causes a good amount of discomfort, pain, and resulting stress on the dog (think about babies when they are teething). While there is not a lot you can do aside from providing temporary comfort to the dog in the form of chews and toys, it is important to be mindful that the puppy may display changes in behavior during this period.
Dogs can’t tell us they are experiencing discomfort or pain, but we often see evidence of it in their behavior. For example, many puppies will regress in their housebreaking habits during the teething period. Be patient and be prepared to step back in their training, knowing that this is just a temporary setback.
Puppies may show changes in temperament as well, becoming less gregarious and more withdrawn. They also may become irritable and lose their patience more quickly. Again, there’s no need to be alarmed by these changes unless they persist after the teething process has been completed.
Conditioning Your Puppy to Have Its Mouth Examined
It is also important to try to acclimate your dog to how it feels to have their mouth touched from a young age. Regularly raise their lips and examine and touch their gums and teeth, and reward them when they respond appropriately. This will help your dog feel more at ease in the future when you need to check their mouths for problems, when they need to have their teeth brushed, and when they need to be examined by the vet.
Although the teething process can be uncomfortable and obnoxious to pups and their owners alike, all dogs go through it and most emerge with a set of 42 perfect permanent teeth.
Patience and love toward the pup during this difficult time can increase your bond with them. With abundant mental stimulation and positive behavior redirection, most dogs will outgrow unwanted chewing behaviors.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Do dogs ever get braces?
A: Yes, it is possible for dogs to get braces; however, the process can be very expensive (typically running from $1,500 to $4,000). While humans may need braces for functional or aesthetic reasons, dogs only ever need braces to correct dental problems.
When a dog has an issue that could be addressed by braces—such as teeth that are pointed inward or outward or a bad overbite—there are often other treatment options that may be pursued first to save the owner some expense. Additionally, when dogs have braces, they require extra vet visits and may need dietary changes and regular tooth brushing.
One perk to braces, though, is that once a dog has had them, they do not need to use a retainer.
Q: Should dogs’ teeth be flossed?
A: No, dogs’ teeth do not need to be flossed. That said, certain chew toys and tooth brushing devices can help clean hard-to-reach spots in dogs’ mouths. Dental chews can also help reduce bacteria.
Q: Do dogs’ teeth grow back after they lose them?
A: Unless the teeth in question are non-molar baby teeth, the answer is no. Like humans, dogs do not have additional permanent teeth that will grow to replace those that are damaged—this is why it is very important to care for your dog’s dental health.