Just like humans, puppies and kittens start their lives as toothless babies (mothers everywhere breathe a sigh of relief). Baby teeth in puppies and kittens are generally fully emerged by the time they are weaned and they join us in our homes. As they age, their deciduous (baby) teeth come out. Puppies normally have 28 and kittens have 26 deciduous teeth.
At around 6 months of age, all the roots of their deciduous teeth should have resorbed in order for the teeth to become loose and fall out. This allows the permanent (adult) teeth to come out. Dogs normally have 42 and cats have 30 adult teeth.
When deciduous teeth do not fall out to make way for the adult teeth, the situation is called “retained deciduous teeth”; this can happen in human children as well as puppies and kittens. Retained deciduous teeth are more common in dogs than cats. As well, smaller breeds are more often affected, such as Maltese, Toy or Miniature Poodles, Pomeranians, Shih Tzus, and Yorkshire Terriers.
Retained deciduous teeth need to be surgically extracted because they will cause dental issues such as:
- Overcrowding in the mouth
- Force adult teeth to erupt in abnormal positions
- Increased plaque and tartar buildup resulting in premature periodontal disease and tooth loss
- Malocclusions (abnormal jaw positions).
If a retained deciduous tooth is extracted early enough, the adult tooth typically moves to its proper position. If it does not, the abnormally positioned teeth can cause damage to the tongue, palate, gums or other teeth. Most veterinarians extract the retained deciduous teeth at the same time your puppy/kitten is spayed or neutered.
It is much easier to impact the positioning of adult teeth while it is erupting, not AFTER it has erupted. As such, here at Edgemont Veterinary Clinic, we offer pediatric oral exams so we can monitor if your new puppy/kitten has retained teeth. If you wait too long, managing the consequences of retained baby teeth after adult teeth have fully come out requires referral to a specialist for orthodontic care to keep your pet’s mouth comfortable and healthy.