How many teeth do dogs have?

HotbotBy HotBotUpdated: June 19, 2024

Understanding the Dental Anatomy of Dogs

Dogs, much like humans, have a set of teeth that are crucial for their survival and daily activities. These teeth are not just for chewing food; they play a vital role in their ability to interact with the environment, defend themselves, and communicate. To accurately understand how many teeth dogs have, it's essential to delve into the stages of their dental development, the types of teeth they possess, and various other aspects that influence their dental health.

Puppy Teeth: The Deciduous Set

A dog's dental journey begins in puppyhood, with the emergence of deciduous (baby) teeth. These are also known as milk teeth or primary teeth. Puppies typically have a total of 28 deciduous teeth, which start to appear around the age of 3 to 4 weeks. The breakdown of these teeth is as follows:

  • 12 Incisors - 6 on the top and 6 on the bottom
  • 4 Canines - 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom
  • 12 Premolars - 6 on the top and 6 on the bottom

These teeth are generally smaller and sharper than the adult teeth that will eventually replace them. The primary function of deciduous teeth is to aid in the puppy's initial stages of eating solid food and to prepare the oral cavity for the larger, permanent teeth.

Adult Teeth: The Permanent Set

As puppies grow, they undergo a teething process where their deciduous teeth fall out and are replaced by a set of permanent teeth. This usually occurs between 3 to 7 months of age. An adult dog typically has 42 permanent teeth, arranged as follows:

  • 12 Incisors - 6 on the top and 6 on the bottom
  • 4 Canines - 2 on the top and 2 on the bottom
  • 16 Premolars - 8 on the top and 8 on the bottom
  • 10 Molars - 4 on the top and 6 on the bottom

This permanent set of teeth is designed to handle a variety of functions, from tearing and slicing meat to grinding plant material. Each type of tooth has a specific role, contributing to the dog's overall ability to process food efficiently.

Types of Teeth and Their Functions

Understanding the different types of teeth and their functions provides deeper insight into why dogs have the number of teeth they do. Here’s a closer look at each type:


Located at the front of the mouth, incisors are primarily used for grasping, nibbling, and grooming. Dogs have 12 incisors in total. These teeth are relatively small and flat, making them ideal for picking up objects and removing parasites from the fur.


Canines are the long, pointed teeth that are most noticeable when a dog opens its mouth. There are 4 canines in total. These teeth are crucial for puncturing and holding onto prey. They also play a role in defense and social interactions, often used to display dominance or submission.


Premolars are situated behind the canines and are more complex in structure. Adult dogs have 16 premolars. These teeth are used for shearing and slicing food, particularly meat. The sharp edges of premolars make them effective tools for breaking down tougher food items.


Molars are the largest teeth found at the back of the mouth. Adult dogs have 10 molars. These teeth are flat and broad, designed for grinding and crushing food. Molars are particularly important for dogs that consume a varied diet, including plant material that requires thorough mastication.

Variations in Tooth Number

While the standard number of teeth in adult dogs is 42, there can be variations based on breed, genetics, and individual health conditions. Some dogs may have extra teeth, known as supernumerary teeth, or they may be missing teeth due to congenital issues or dental diseases. It's not uncommon for certain breeds, particularly brachycephalic breeds like Bulldogs and Pugs, to have dental anomalies due to their unique skull structures.

Dental Health and Maintenance

Maintaining the dental health of dogs is crucial for their overall well-being. Dental diseases can lead to pain, infection, and even systemic health issues. Regular dental check-ups, proper nutrition, and at-home dental care practices like brushing and providing dental chews can help keep a dog's teeth healthy.

Common Dental Issues

Dogs are susceptible to various dental issues, including:

  • Periodontal Disease: A bacterial infection that affects the gums and structures supporting the teeth.
  • Tooth Fractures: Often caused by chewing on hard objects or trauma.
  • Tooth Resorption: A condition where the tooth structure begins to break down and absorb into the gum.

Preventive Care

Preventive care is key to maintaining dental health in dogs. This includes:

  • Regular Veterinary Dental Exams: Professional cleanings and examinations can identify and address issues early.
  • Daily Tooth Brushing: Using dog-specific toothpaste and brushes to remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup.
  • Dental Chews and Toys: Products designed to promote chewing can help reduce plaque and tartar.

Evolutionary Perspective

The dental structure of dogs has evolved to suit their dietary needs and survival strategies. Domesticated dogs share an ancestry with wild canines like wolves, whose teeth are adapted for a carnivorous diet. Over time, domestication has led to some changes in diet and behavior, but the fundamental structure and function of their teeth remain largely the same.

In conclusion, the dental anatomy of dogs is a fascinating blend of form and function, evolved to meet their diverse needs. With 28 deciduous teeth in puppies and 42 permanent teeth in adults, each type of tooth plays a specific role in their survival and daily life. Understanding this intricate system highlights the importance of dental health and the need for regular care to ensure our canine companions lead healthy, happy lives.

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