Teeth play a crucial role in our furry friends’ lives. They not only help them chew food but also facilitate their playtime with toys. However, it’s essential to remember that teeth endure a considerable amount of wear and tear throughout our pets’ lifetimes. Therefore, maintaining healthy teeth is paramount for their overall well-being.
Fascinating Teeth Facts
Let’s dive into some intriguing teeth facts:
- Puppies: Puppies start their dental journey with 28 teeth.
- Adult Dogs: As they grow, adult dogs develop 42 teeth, consisting of 12 incisors (6 on the top and bottom), 4 canines (2 on the top and bottom), 16 pre-molars (8 on the top and bottom), and 10 molars (4 on the top and 6 on the bottom).
- Kittens: Similarly, kittens begin with 26 teeth.
- Adult Cats: Upon maturing, adult cats possess 30 teeth, including 12 incisors (6 on the top and bottom), 4 canines (2 on the top and bottom), 10 pre-molars (6 on the top and 4 on the bottom), and 4 molars (2 on the top and bottom).
- Teething: Puppies and kittens typically start teething at around 4 months of age, with their full set of adult teeth coming in by the time they reach 6 months.
- Roots: Dog and cat teeth may have either 1, 2, or 3 roots, depending on the specific tooth.
Unique Dental Challenges
Some dogs experience irregular alignment of their teeth, known as malocclusions. This condition is more prevalent in short-nosed breeds like Bulldogs, Shih Tzus, and Pugs. However, these misaligned teeth don’t always disrupt their ability to lead a normal life. In certain cases, irregularly placed teeth must be removed to prevent pain by avoiding contact with the palate or gums. It’s important to note that most malocclusions are hereditary, meaning dogs with severe tooth alignment issues should not be bred to prevent passing these traits on to their offspring.
The Functional Divide
The division of labor among dog and cat teeth is fascinating. The teeth at the front of their mouths, including incisors and canines, function primarily for grasping and tugging. On the other hand, the teeth at the back, specifically pre-molars and molars, are responsible for grinding and chewing.
Robust, Yet Fragile Enamel
While dogs and cats share some similarities with human teeth, their enamel (the outer coating of the tooth) is relatively thinner and weaker. This structural difference makes their teeth more susceptible to breakage and fractures.
Periodontal Disease: A Common Ailment
Distressingly, approximately 80% of dogs and cats over three years old suffer from some degree of periodontal disease. This condition involves inflammation and infection of the tissues below the gum line. Initially, it starts as plaque and gingivitis but can progress to impact the tooth roots, leading to excruciating pain.
Resorptive Lesions in Cats
Cats are prone to developing “resorptive lesions” on their teeth. These lesions resemble cavities in humans and manifest as erosions or holes in the tooth enamel. Unfortunately, the precise cause of these lesions remains unknown as they can occur at any age, regardless of diet. Treatment typically involves extracting the affected tooth to alleviate pain and discomfort.
Dental Mishaps in Dogs
Dogs have their share of dental mishaps, often resulting from chewing on exceptionally hard objects such as bones or antlers. These activities can lead to tooth fractures or breaks, necessitating medical intervention. Veterinary dental specialists can repair damaged teeth through techniques such as root canals to alleviate pain, or they may opt for complete extraction if the tooth is severely damaged. Regular veterinarians can perform extractions when necessary.
The Importance of Preventative Dental Care
Just like humans, dogs and cats require preventative dental care to maintain good oral health. Implementing dental care routines such as tooth brushing, water additives, dental diets, and dental chews can significantly contribute to their overall dental hygiene. Additionally, regular professional dental cleanings performed under anesthesia play a vital role in preserving dental health. During these cleanings, the teeth are probed, x-rayed, scaled, and polished, mirroring the procedures performed by human dentists. For more information on dental cleanings, consult your veterinarian today!
Written by Dr. Jessica Wilson DVM