Your Comprehensive Guide to Dog Teeth (With a Diagram)

How many teeth do dogs have? What are puppy milk teeth? We've got all the dog dental facts you didn't know you needed.

Updated January 20, 2024
Very happy vizsla dog showing teeth in smile

A dog's teeth are a masterpiece of simple engineering designed to tear, shred, and grind their food. Life just wouldn't be the same for your pet without them, which is why caring for their chompers is so important. Bite into fun facts about dog teeth and learn how you can support their pearly whites. 

1. Dogs Have Two Sets of Teeth

Dogs have baby and adult teeth, just like people do. Each set is designed to serve their needs at different ages. In fact, you can even use your dog's teeth as a way of telling their approximate age

RELATED: Key Puppy Stages Every Owner Should Know

2. Puppy Teeth Are Called Milk Teeth

The first set of puppy teeth are called deciduous teeth, but they are often referred to as "milk teeth" because they erupt through the gums while puppies are still nursing. These teeth are quite tiny and sharp, and they have very small roots that make them easier to shed. They lose these around four months of age when the permanent adult teeth begin to replace them.

Fast Fact

Puppies have a set of 28 milk teeth, though this set doesn't contain molars because dogs don't need them at this point. 

3. Adult Dogs Have 42 Teeth

Adult teeth are much larger, and they have strong roots meant to hold the teeth securely for the rest of your dog's life. By about seven months old, a dog should have all 42 of their permanent teeth: 20 on the top jaw and 22 on the bottom for a total of 42. 

White American Eskimo dog yawning wide teeth show

4. There Are Four Types of Dog Teeth

A canine's teeth can be broken down into four specific groups. Each group has a distinct purpose.

Incisor Teeth

The incisors are the small teeth in the front of the jaw that your dog uses for picking up items or nibbling at themselves if they have an itchy spot. There are 12 incisors: six in the upper jaw and six in the lower jaw.

Canine Teeth

These pointy teeth are commonly referred to as fangs and are used to bite and hold on to whatever a dog seeks to keep, be it a bone, a toy, or another animal. Dogs have four canines; there are two on the upper jaw and two on the lower jaw. Each individual pair is separated by a set of incisors.

Premolar Teeth

The premolars are in charge of all the major chewing. You'll notice that when you give your dog a toy or large chew treat, they take the item from you with the incisors and fangs and then transfer it to the side of the mouth when they begin chewing. In the wild, dogs use their premolars to rip meat from the bone. There are sixteen premolars, four each on either side of the upper and lower jaws, just behind the canines.

Molar Teeth

Molars handle the heavy-duty work of a dog's teeth, breaking down larger hard items like large kibble or dog biscuits. Every adult dog has ten molars just behind the premolars: two on each side of the top jaw and three on each side of the lower jaw.

RELATED: How to Clean Your Dog's Teeth at Home

5. There's a Dog "Dental Formula"

The "dental formula" is how veterinarians differentiate the number of teeth that a dog should have. "Formula" refers to the type of tooth and is indicated with a single letter:

  • I for Incisors
  • C for Canines
  • PM for Premolars
  • M for Molars

The formula includes two numbers. The first number indicates the number of that type of tooth on each side of the upper jaw, and the second number indicates the number of each of that type on each side of the lower jaw. For example, canine is 1/1, which means there is one canine tooth on each side of the top jaw which equals two total. And there is likewise one on each side of the lower jaw, which comes to two total. Added together, a dog has four total canines. The full dental formula for a dog is:

  • I 3/3
  • C 1/1
  • PM 4/4
  • M 2/3
dog dental teeth chart

6. Decoding the Veterinary Dental Chart

However, instead of talking about dog teeth in terms of the type and location, veterinarians will often use the tooth number instead. They've divided the dog mouth into four quadrants: 

  • I: top right 
  • II: top left
  • III: bottom left
  • VI: bottom right

Every tooth in the first quadrant (top right) starts with the number 1, so the first incisor is 101, the second is 102, and so forth, working from front to back. Then, the second quadrant begins with incisor 201, etc. This makes it a lot less confusing than simply saying "missing C," because that could mean any of the four canines! 

7. Dental Disease Is Linked to Heart Problems

Think your dog's tooth and gum health only impacts their mouth? Think again. According to a study conducted by Purdue University, there's a connection between gum disease and heart disease in dogs. Dogs with gum disease have six-times the risk of developing endocarditis than dogs with healthy gums.

8. Dogs Can Get Gingivitis, Too 

Dogs are prone to gum disease if their teeth aren't kept clean.

Signs of gum disease include: 

  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
  • Crusty white or yellowish build-up along the gum line
  • Foul breath
  • Loose or missing teeth
Fast Fact

Up to 90% of dogs over three years old have some level of gum disease, even if they don't show symptoms. 

9. You Can Condition Your Dog to Accept Brushing

Most dogs require some training and practice before they will let someone brush their teeth. However, most will eventually become accustomed to it if you brush their teeth on a regular basis. It's best to start the procedure during puppyhood since puppies are easier to control.

RELATED: Best Dog Toothpaste to Get the Job Done Right

10. All Owners Should Brush Their Dog's Teeth

To brush your dog's teeth:

  1. Apply a pea-sized bead of dog toothpaste to the brush, or just wet the brush with plain water.
  2. Gently hold your dog's mouth open just wide enough to insert the toothbrush.
  3. Begin brushing along the gum line near the incisors.
  4. Work your way backward to the molars. Rinse your brush in water frequently as you go.
Fast Fact

Even if you brush your dog's teeth regularly, professional dental cleanings are still important to examine all sides of the teeth and below the gum lines to check for hidden problems. 

All About Your Dog's Teeth

Understanding how a dog's teeth are formed and their correct anatomy helps you to better care for their teeth. Dog owners often don't think about a dog's teeth, but if they are not properly brushed and kept free of gum disease, your dog could suffer serious health problems. Always follow your veterinarian's advice on proper dog dental care and gum health.

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Your Comprehensive Guide to Dog Teeth (With a Diagram)