Did you know that 80 percent of dogs show signs of gum disease by the time they’re two years old? Help your dog by taking care of their teeth while they’re still a puppy. Just as it is for us humans, developing good oral hygiene early is a major step in safeguarding your puppy from dental diseases in the long run. Not only do you keep their teeth shiny and their breath smelling clean, you’ll also prevent expensive dental visits to your vet later on.
Taking Care of Puppy Teeth
Birth to 6th week
Puppies, almost without exception, are born toothless. Development proceeds rapidly, and by 6 or 7 weeks, 28 sharp teeth—called milk teeth, deciduous teeth, or simply puppy teeth—begin to come in. Some puppy teeth erupt sooner.
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Like infants and toddlers, puppies explore their world by putting random objects in their mouth. At this point, their growing teeth may cause a certain degree of discomfort. Puppies resort to chewing to ease the pain of teething and sore gums.
During this period, you should do the following:
- Take your puppy to the veterinarian to do an introductory health checkup.
- Gently rub your puppy’s gums and teeth to help them tolerate future dental care handling.
- Introduce dog toothpaste by placing a small amount on your index finer and gently massaging your puppy’s gums with it.
- Use a soft cloth or a dog/puppy toothbrush once they’re accustomed to the toothpaste.
The puppy’s first reaction to tooth brushing is most likely going to be a propensity to chew on the brush. This is completely normal. As the puppy gets more accustomed to seeing the brush and paste, gently begin to go over their puppy teeth as you would your own, in a circular manner from the gums to the ends of the teeth.
8th week to 12th week
Just like human babies, these puppy teeth eventually fall out. For puppies, some of the incisors begin to fall out by 3 months, making way for permanent teeth, which is a painful process for dogs. Canine teeth and molars will then begin to emerge. This varies by dog and by breed, but most canines sport 42 adult teeth by the time they’re 7 to 8 months old. All of your puppy’s 28 baby teeth are expected to come in by this time. This is when puppies start to learn how to eat moist and soft puppy food.
When the puppy teeth don’t fall out on time, puppies may appear to have a double set of teeth. Sometimes, a crowded mouth pushes teeth out of alignment. Periodontal disease occurs very quickly when there is crowding.
During this period, it is highly recommended to do the following:
- Purchase dental chews and offer them as a treat to keep his chewing safe.
- Buy a bitter-tasting deterrent at your pet store to discourage them from chewing on household objects.
- If puppy teeth don’t fall out, visit a veterinarian to have them extracted.
12th week to 6th month
While you don’t want your puppy chewing the wrong things, you do want to encourage some healthy gnawing. With all the growing that your puppy is doing, your puppy needs a high-quality diet to develop strong, healthy bones and teeth. Feed your puppy the best quality puppy food you can comfortably afford, and consider your dog’s dental health when you plan his daily diet.
Here are food suggestions:
- Dry kibble helps to scrape food and bacteria off the surface of the teeth, minimizing the opportunities for plaque to develop.
- Alternate wet, canned food with kibble if your puppy prefers the former since it is more likely to get trapped in crevices. Or you may add a spoonful of wet food to his bowl of kibble.
- Sneak in some teeth-cleansing benefits by choosing treats approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council.
- Give your puppy edible chew treats like bully sticks or knucklebones.
6th month onward
At this point, all puppy teeth should be gone, and adult teeth emerge. The puppy should have 42 teeth—12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars.
To ensure your dog’s dental health, they will need dental care on a regular basis. See your vet about a schedule. Here’s a guide to maintaining oral health for adult dogs.
Guide to Brushing Puppy Teeth
If you’re wondering how brushing puppy teeth should be done, here’s a short guide.
- Go slow, starting with massaging the outside of the month and then the inside gums. Work your way up to the brush gradually over the next several weeks.
- Use a finger brush with a tasty toothbrush. Let your puppy lick the toothpaste.
- You can also use a small gauze square sprinkled with a dab of toothpaste to transition to the toothbrush.
- Gradually work up to a small toothbrush—the smaller the better.
- Do not worry too much if you cannot get to the inside of the tooth.
Important Reminders When Taking Care of Puppy Teeth
Toothpastes made for humans should NOT be used because dogs don’t rinse and spit like we do. The fluoride and other ingredients in our toothpaste can harm them.
Never pull loose puppy teeth out. Puppy teeth have very long roots, and pulling the teeth can break the root, leading to an infection.
The more often you brush your dog’s teeth, the better, but you should brush at least once per day. And if that is not possible, then as frequently as you can.
It’s important to begin handling your puppy’s mouth while it’s young so you can periodically check for any potential tooth problems. You’ll want to take your pup to the veterinarian immediately if you see any of these:
- Spots of blood on your dog’s toys
- Yellow-brown tartar on the teeth or gum line
- Loss of appetite
- Red, swollen and bleeding gums
- Excessive drooling
- Blood in the saliva
- Broken or cracked teeth
- Crooked teeth
- Foul breath
- Two teeth occupying one spot
- Loose adult teeth
Establishing a consistent dental care regime while your dog is still a puppy is one of the best things you can do for your puppy’s health. And since their health and your happiness will invariably go hand in hand, you’ll be doing yourself a huge favor as well.