Dog Dentition

YOUR DOG’S TEETH

There are two structural things that we look at when we consider the teeth of a dog – the first is the dog’s bite and the second is the number of teeth.

A dog’s bite is determined by how the upper and lower incisor teeth meet when the mouth is closed. The accepted bite for any given breed is described in the standard for that breed. An incorrect bite causes breeders a great deal of concern as generally these are hereditary, resulting from genetic factors that control the rate of growth of the upper and lower jaws. Some incorrect bites can be caused by retained baby teeth, which push the erupting adult teeth out of line.

It is important to consider how a dogs mouth and jaw fit as bad bites interfere with the dog’s ability to grasp, hold, and chew food, hence teeth that are out of alignment may injure the soft parts of the mouth.

Scissor Bite

The ideal bite for a dog is when the upper incisors just overlap and touch the lower incisors. This is called the scissors bite. We are lucky with the Australian Shepherd as this is generally the bite that is seen, as with most of the working/herding breeds.

In the even or level bite, the incisors meet edge to edge. This is a quite common, but is not considered ideal because the edge-to-edge contact wears the teeth.

Overshot bite

Occurs when the upper jaw protrudes beyond the lower jaw, causing the upper teeth to overlap the lower teeth without touching. This condition is also called prognathism. Some breeds, such as German Shepherd Dogs, will go through a normal stage as puppies in which the bite is overshot.

The overshot bite may correct itself spontaneously in young puppies if the gap is no greater than the head of a wooden match. Improvement may continue until the puppy is 10 months old, at which time the jaws stop growing. Puppies with severe overshot bites may have problems, because as the adult teeth come in they can injure the soft parts of the mouth. This requires treatment. 

teeth

Undershot bite is the reverse of the overshot bite; the lower jaw protrudes beyond the upper jaw. It is considered normal for brachycephalic breeds, such as Bulldogs and Pugs. Undershot bite is also called brachygnathism. Wry mouthis the worst of the problems. In a dog with wry mouth, one side of the jaw grows faster than the other, twisting the mouth. This can be a severe handicap in grasping and chewing food. 



Teeth
A good balanced dog mouth will have 42 teeth, but again dogs with jaws that don’t have a Scissor Bite will often have less. At times dogs will be missing perhaps one or a couple of teeth, often one of the Premolars, this is not a big problem if the jaw is all sitting correctly. 

Maintaining Teeth Care

It is now common for vets to offer dental checks for dogs unfortunately this can be a very expensive exerise, even a basic clean can cost $200+ and much more if dog requires an anesthetic and more advanced work. There are also many products being marketed to owners that claim to remove plaque but again these may or may not live up to the promise.

With over 40 years of owning many dogs that have lived long lives and displayed clean white teeth and strong pink gums. Yet I have NEVER had to clean my dogs teeth nor have I used dental sticks or special dry food. However, I have always owned breeds such as Kelpie mix, Jack Russell Terriers, German Shepherds and Australian Shepherds which are all breeds that have a good sized muzzle with scissor bites. 

teeth layout

Alfoxton Recommendation

So this draws me to a conclusion that if your chosen breed has a good scissor bite and full mouth of teeth it should be fairly easy for the dogs to keep good healthy teeth and gums naturally. However, if your dog has a short muzzle and a irregular layout of teeth it will still help to try natural ways to promote good dental health and perhaps reduce the need to spend money on specialist care.

1. All dog needs things to chew on to keep the jaw and gums strong. This could be bones, sticks, raw hide and chew toys.
2. A balanced raw diet that doesn’t carry an excess of sugars will also help promote clean saliva that coats the dog’s teeth so plaque doesn’t coat the enamel.
3. Management of the dog’s activities can go a long way to ensure good dental health. If you see your dog chewing on hard objects such as rocks or metal then block this behavior. Also consider how you use tug toys as you do not wish to overstress the dog’s mouth thru rough play, especially with older dogs.
4. Examine your dog’s teeth and gums on a regular basis, if they appear to have a tartar buildup then try offering a good chewy lamb flap or bone to see if this helps.

Forty years of raising dogs I have never had to spend money on dental care. So it may help to follow these steps prior to spending money at the vets to have the teeth cleaned.