Dog with Toy

Oral Care

Within a few days of puppy bouncing into your life you’ll be made very aware of his or her set of sharp little puppy teeth! Looking after those budding pearly whites from an early age will help your little nipper stay healthy, happy and avoid may diseases over the course of their life.

How do dogs’ teeth develop?

Puppy teeth

  • 28 teeth (14 upper and 14 lower) erupt at around 3-4 weeks of age
  • hang around for about the first 4 months of life
  • also known as temporary or deciduous teeth
  • usually fall out before permanent teeth come through
  • if they don’t fall out, they may need to be removed by a vet

Permanent teeth

  • 42 permanent teeth (20 upper and 22 lower)
  • start to erupt at about 16 weeks of age and have all sprouted by around 7 months of age.

Teething problems

Moving from pup teeth to the grown up variety can be uncomfortable for your puppy as their sharp adult teeth push their way through the gums. The best way to relieve the pain is to get your puppy chewing. This helps the permanent teeth break through the gums more easily.

Chewing toys

Puppies will chew just about anything they can get their little teeth into. Safe and stimulating puppy teething toys offer that much-needed chewing outlet during a highly stressful time. Chewing exercises also help to properly develop their jaw muscles, teeth and gums. Not to mention all the shoes, socks and other defenceless valuables you’ll save.

Your vet can advise you on a suitable chew toy for your puppy, but here are a few chewing toy tips:

  • stuff some toys with treats to make them more interesting
  • freeze some toys first so they sooth your pups gums
  • try to include toys accredited by veterinary dental associations
  • not all toys are suitable for all breeds as dogs have different sized mouths, teeth and chewing capabilities

If your puppy chews things around the house due to boredom and for play, you need to control this. Learn more about chewing behaviour.

Can I brush my dog’s teeth?

Bacteria and plaque-forming foods can cause gingivitis, receding gums and tooth loss in dogs. A regular brush can help this.

For puppies

  • massaging your puppy’s gums with a fingertip toothbrush can relieve teething pain
  • buy a finger toothbrush from your vet or pet store
  • also gets pup used to being handled in and around the mouth
  • never use fluoride toothpaste or human toothpaste

Over six months

Now it’s time to shine those pearly whites. Before you do, ask your vet:

  • to check if your dog’s gums are inflamed as brushing too hard can hurt her gums
  • for the right toothbrush and special toothpaste to use on your dog

When it’s time to brush:

  • put a little bit of toothpaste on his or her lips to get them used to the taste
  • use the special toothbrush to give a nice massage to your dog’s gums
  • apply the toothpaste to his or her teeth for a gentle brushing

Dental disease

A survey has shown that 80% of dogs over the age of three have some form of dental disease. By brushing your puppy’s teeth, you can help your dog stay one of the healthy 20%.

Dental disease not only causes bad breath, it can be painful and can contribute to more severe systemic disease such as renal (kidney) and heart disease. Small toy-breed dogs are more likely to develop dental disease because they are less avid chewers.

If teeth cleaning can’t keep your dog’s mouth healthy they will need to visit your vet for treatments like teeth cleaning, ultrasonic scaling under anaesthetic and teeth extractions etc.

Examining your dog’s mouth

Each week you need to see what’s going on inside your dog’s mouth. Lift their lips and examine the gums and teeth. The gums should be pink rather than red or white, with no signs of swelling. Their teeth should be clean, without any brownish tartar.

Common signs of oral health problems

If your dog shows any of the following signs, you should visit your vet for a check up:

  • bad breath
  • loose teeth
  • excessive drooling
  • inflamed gums
  • tumours in the gums
  • cysts under the tongue