Dog Teeth: North Raleigh Vet Explains Your Dog’s Dental Anatomy

As a dog parent, it’s important for you to understand your dog’s dental health and that understanding begins with a knowledge of dog teeth in general. Today our North Raleigh vet staff are going to be sharing some great information to help you to get a better understanding of your dog’s mouth.

Dog Teeth: North Raleigh Vet Explains Your Dog’s Dental Anatomy


As a dog parent, you have undoubtedly know what dog teeth look like. If you’re vigilant about your dog’s dental hygiene, you will likely be a little more familiar with them. But for the sake of today’s article, we’re going to assume that you don’t know anything about dog teeth at all.

The Basics of Canine Dental Anatomy

Just like humans, dogs have two sets of teeth to see them through their lifetime, their temporary teeth (also known as puppy teeth or “milk teeth”) and their permanent teeth (also known as “adult teeth”).

A puppy starts getting their temporary teeth at around 4 weeks old. Puppies have just 28 temporary teeth and, as anyone who has ever had a puppy knows, they’re very sharp! These puppy teeth don’t last very long, however, and between 14 and 30 weeks, they begin to fall out.

The lost puppy teeth are replaced by permanent or “adult” teeth. A dog that has all of their adult teeth should have 42 teeth.

What Kind of Teeth Does Your Dog Have?

We are all familiar with the names of our own teeth – molars, premolars, etc. and how many of each type of tooth the average human has, but dog’s dental composition is slightly different.

The average dog has 12 incisors, 4 canines, 16 premolars, and 10 molars.

How does this compare to your own teeth? Well, the average adult has 20 “baby” teeth and 32 “adult” teeth. Our 32 teeth include 8 incisors, 4 canines, 8 premolars, and 12 molars. Our 12 molars include 4 wisdom teeth (although some people have a 1, 2, 3, or even 8 wisdom teeth!).

What Does Your Dog Do With Their Different Teeth?

Each of the different types of teeth in your dog’s mouth have a different purpose.

Incisors: Your dog’s incisors are used for scraping, for example, think of a wolf scraping meat off a bone. In your home, you may notice that your dog uses their incisors for scratching that itch or nipping at a bug caught in their fur.

Canines: Your dog’s canines are “tearing teeth”. Think of a wolf tearing a large piece of meat apart. At home, you may notice that your dog uses these teeth for grabbing onto a bone or a toy.

Premolars: Your dog’s premolars are your dog’s chewing and shredding teeth. Think of a wolf chewing on a meaty bone. At home, you may notice that your dog uses these teeth for chewing on a chew toy or a bone.

Molars: Your dog’s molars are their grinding teeth. Think of a wolf crushing bone or mashing up meat before swallowing. At home, you may notice that your dog uses these teeth primarily for chewing harder things like kibble or hard dog biscuits.

What Are Carnassial Teeth?

You may have heard your vet talking about your dog’s carnassial teeth. Carnassial teeth are often referred to as the fourth premolar and you will recognize these teeth as the very big tooth in your dog’s mouth (in the upper and lower jaw). This tooth looks to be the size of two teeth and is used for shearing. You will notice that the sides of these teeth look jagged, this is by design, and the way your dog’s upper and lower teeth come together allows for a type of sharpening.

The carnassial tooth has three roots where the other premolars have two roots. When dogs crack teeth or develop abscesses, this often happens around the carnassial tooth or the “fang” teeth.

What Are “Fang Teeth”?

When we talk about a dog’s fang teeth, we are talking about canine teeth.

Dental Health

A wild dog or wolf keeps their teeth healthy by chewing on bone. Since most domestic dogs eat kibble which is softer than bone, there is less natural cleaning of your dog’s teeth. Add in the fact that many dog parents feed their dogs’ human food which is high in sugar, and you get a higher buildup of plaque.

Regularly brushing your dog’s teeth and providing them with dental toys will help to keep plaque from building up. A once a year dental cleaning will make sure to get to those hard to reach areas in your dog’s mouth and polish tooth surfaces so that it’s harder for plaque to grip on to your dog’s teeth.

Signs That Your Dog Needs Dental Attention

Even with careful dental care, there is a chance that your dog can develop dental issues that require attention. You can often identify your dog’s need for dental care from their symptoms alone. These symptoms can include:

  • Bad breath
  • Pawing at the mouth
  • Visible cracks and chips in the teeth
  • Swelling in and around the mouth
  • Fever
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Noticeable signs of pain when chewing

Dog Teeth Need Cleaning?

If it’s time for your dog’s teeth to be cleaned, why not give us a call? Here at Leesville Animal Hospital in North Raleigh, we can meet all of your dog’s dental and physical health needs and with three veterinarians on staff, you can be sure that your dog will always be well cared for. To book your dog’s dental cleaning or just to come by and pay us a visit so that you can meet our vets, give us a call today at (919)870-7000!

Our Hours

Monday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Tuesday: 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Wednesday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Thursday: 7:30 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Friday: 7:30 a.m. – 5:30 p.m.
Saturday: 9 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Sunday: Boarding pick up 5 – 6 p.m.

Call Us: (919) 870-7000
Visit Us: 9309 Leesville Rd,
                 Raleigh, N.C. 27613


Review Us on Yelp!