Smile please! Check out our ultimate guide to looking after your dog’s teeth

How many teeth does a dog have? When do dogs lose their puppy teeth and get their adult teeth? How do you clean a dog’s teeth? Why is it important to clean your dog’s teeth? Find out the answers to all these questions and more with our comprehensive guide to looking after your dog’s teeth. Puppies and young dogs have
Featured image for Smile please! Check out our ultimate guide to looking after your dog’s teeth
15th September 2022

How many teeth does a dog have? When do dogs lose their puppy teeth and get their adult teeth? How do you clean a dog’s teeth? Why is it important to clean your dog’s teeth? Find out the answers to all these questions and more with our comprehensive guide to looking after your dog’s teeth.

Puppies and young dogs have the brightest, whitest teeth. But to stay that way, they need a little help from their human.

Veterinary and rehoming charity Blue Cross advises: “Your dog’s teeth have a lot of work to do. Dogs use their mouths for more than just eating; they use them to play, explore and taste a lot of their surroundings too. So, if your dog’s teeth aren’t properly cared for, it can start to cause problems.

“If dog’s teeth are not regularly cleaned, the plaque will build up and turn into tartar. This has a solid, brown, gritty look and feel and can lead to inflammation and tenderness which is no fun for your dog to contend with while trying to eat. It can also go on to cause gingivitis and gum disease.”

According to the RSPCA, dental disease is very common in dogs, second only to ear infections, and can be extremely uncomfortable – much as it would be for us.

Understanding more about your dog’s teeth and what can cause problems – and learning how to make teeth cleaning part of your dog’s regular routine – can make a real difference to your dog’s dental health and hygiene.

Q: When do dogs lose their puppy teeth and get their adult teeth – and how many teeth do adult dogs have?

A: Puppies are born without teeth. When they are three to four weeks old, their puppy teeth start to appear. By the time they are three to five months of age, they will usually have all 28 of their puppy teeth. These include incisors (for grasping) canines (for tearing) and premolars (for grinding). Some dogs (particularly toy and small breed dogs) tend to take longer to develop puppy and adult teeth.

Between the ages of three to seven months, permanent teeth will start to appear. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth, as compared to a human’s 32 teeth. Their upper jaw, called the maxilla, has 20 teeth, while their lower jaw, called the mandible, has 22 teeth.

Did you know that some small breeds of dogs are more prone to periodontal disease due to misalignment of their upper and lower jaws, including the Toy Poodle, Yorkshire Terrier, Pomeranian, Cavalier King Charles, Papillion and Dachshund?

Q: Why is it important to clean a dog’s teeth?

A: Looking after your dog's teeth by cleaning them regularly is a really important part of caring for your canine chum. Dogs Trust says: “Although they are not prone to cavities like humans, they can still develop problems like tartar, plaque build-up and gingivitis. Severe dental disease can result in teeth requiring extraction or permanent damage to the underlying bone.”

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that constantly forms on teeth. When saliva, food and fluids combine, plaque forms between teeth and along the gum line. Just like with humans, plaque is the root cause of many oral health issues in dogs. The bacteria in plaque produce acids that attack tooth enamel causing cavities and can also cause the early stage of gum disease called gingivitis. Plaque can also contribute to bad breath and can make teeth look dingy and yellow.

If plaque is not regularly removed from your dog’s teeth by brushing, it mineralises into tartar. This is a hard, yellow or brown deposit that sticks tightly to the teeth and can only be removed by a vet. If tartar is not removed, it can lead to more serious gum disease and might mean that your dog loses some of their teeth.

Q: When should you start cleaning a dog’s teeth?

A: Your dog will accept tooth brushing more readily if you get them used to it at a young age. Introducing it to an older pet requires plenty of patience and should be done in stages. Every pet is different, so keep sessions short, go at their pace and give them lots of praise.

Dogs Trust advises: “It is a good idea to get your dog used to having their teeth brushed when your dog is a puppy. If you didn't get your dog as a puppy, tooth brushing can start as soon as your new dog is settled in your home, and you feel comfortable doing so.”

Q: How do you clean a dog’s teeth?

A: Dogs Trust recommends purchasing some enzymatic dog toothpaste and a brush from your vet. Enzymatic toothpaste helps break down plaque and reduces bad breath. NEVER USE HUMAN TOOTHPASTE as this is toxic to dogs. Here’s the charity’s guide to brushing your dog’s teeth:

  1. Pop a little bit of the toothpaste on to your dog's food. This will help them get accustomed to the taste.
  2. After a few days, put a little bit on your finger and encourage your dog to lick it off.
  3. When you feel confident enough, rub your finger across your dog's teeth and gums without toothpaste to get the dog used to the brushing action. You can then apply some of the toothpaste to the teeth using your finger. If your dog looks uncomfortable at any point, stop what you are doing. Continue this approach slowly over a few sessions until your dog is used to the taste and sensation.
  4. You can now try using a toothbrush. There is no need to full open the mouth to do this; by lifting the upper of lower lip you will have access to the teeth. Brush all the teeth using a circular motion concentrating on the gum line. Once your dog is used to the sensation of the brush, you can add the toothpaste. Ideally tooth brushing should be repeated every 24-48 hours.

Watch PDSA’s step-by-step guide to cleaning your dog’s teeth >>

Q: Can the type of dog food you feed benefit their teeth?

A: Absolutely. The RSPCA stresses the importance of feeding your dog the right food, stating: “Some owners favour wet foods for their dog over dry. However, dry dog food may have the added benefit of exercising their chewing muscles and provide a mild cleaning effect on the teeth.”

While daily tooth brushing is by far the best way to keep your pet’s teeth healthy, specially designed dental chews for dogs may also be of some benefit. Blue Cross advises: “Giving your dog dental chews and a suitable diet has some effect in reducing plaque. The dental chews should be the correct size for your dog; if they are too small, they can be a choking hazard.”

The charity also advises that many dental chews are high in calories, recommending that you “reduce your dog’s normal food intake accordingly so that they don’t put on weight.” It also recommends avoiding “hard chews, bones and stones that can wear down or break teeth.”

Did you know that all varieties of Burgess dog food consist of tasty, munchy kibbles, which are fortified with calcium to support healthy teeth and bones?

Q: What other things can help to keep your dog’s teeth healthy?

A: While brushing your dog’s teeth regularly is the best way to keep their teeth clean and healthy, there are some other things you can do help your canine chum maintain a healthy mouth. Veterinary charity PDSA has the following advice:

  • You can buy toys that are designed to clean your dog’s teeth as they chew on them.
  • Don’t feed them too many sugary treats as this can cause more bacteria to build up on your dog’s teeth.
  • Don’t feed your dog bones as these can damage your dog’s teeth. Bones can also break into splinters which can damage their gums and throat.

Q: How can you tell if your dog has dental problems?

A: There are various signs that suggest your dog has dental problems including constant smelly breath, rubbing their face, difficulty eating and dropping food from their mouth.

Dogs Trust advises things to look out for include “bad breath, red or swollen gums, discolouration of the teeth, fractured or missing teeth, or a change in your dog's eating habits. If your dog shows any of these signs, then seek veterinary advice.”

In fact, by the time you notice your dog’s breath is on the stinky side, they may already have serious dental disease which requires antibiotics and tooth extractions. What’s more, there could also be other health issues that can cause smelly breath, so it’s important that your dog has regular all round health check-ups with your vet.

PDSA advises: “If your dog has serious problems with their teeth, they’ll need to be seen by their vet – brushing alone won’t solve the painful problem. They’ll be able to talk to you about the best treatment for your dog and how you can help them start to feel better.”

Need more top tips and advice? Download Dogs Trust Dental Hygiene for Your Dog leaflet >>

Something tasty for every dog

At Burgess, all our dog food is made using premium ingredients to ensure excellent quality and superior taste to help keep your dog happy and healthy – from puppy, to adult and senior.

We’ve also developed foods to meet the specific nutritional needs of sporting and working dogsGreyhounds and Lurchers (20p from every sale goes to help care for rescued Greyhounds and Lurchers) and dogs with sensitivities, along with our brand new Supadog Rich in Salmon, featuring rescued Staffy Cross Jess on the front of the pack. For every bag sold, 20p is donated to dog rescues across the UK in the form of free food.

And we’re very proud of our Paul O'Grady's 'No Nasties' dog food range, which comes in Hypoallergenic and Grain Free varieties. All Burgess dog food is a complete food. This means, whatever variety you choose for your dog, it will contain all the nutrients they need in the correct balance.

From puppy to adolescent, through to adult and senior, as your dog goes through different stages, their exercise and nutrition needs change. Find out how to help them stay happy and healthy every day of their lives >>

Is your dog a Burgess dog? Join the Burgess Pet Club for exclusive offers and rewards.  

CARE MORE Find out more about caring for your dog from Burgess, the pet experts. Training, nutrition, grooming and general care. It’s all here >>

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