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If your puppy's baby teeth won't fall out, you are right to be concerned. Retained baby teeth in puppies can turn quite problematic and have a negative impact on their mouth. 

Dogs in some ways, are more alike to humans than most people realize. For example, both human babies and puppies first develop a set of baby teeth (also known as primary or deciduous teeth) before they get their permanent adult teeth (also known as secondary teeth). 

What should you do though when your dog's baby teeth won't fall out? Following is some important information about retained baby teeth in dogs.

puppy teething chart

About Dog Baby Teeth 

If this is your first time owning a puppy, you may benefit from a little primer in how puppy and dog teeth grow.

When your puppy was born, she had no teeth. This made it easier (as well as more comfortable for her mom!) to suckle milk for food. But then, between the third or fourth week of her life, her deciduous, or baby milk teeth, started to come in.

These teeth are needed at this time as puppies will start being weaned off mother's milk and being introduced to new foods.

By week six of your puppy's life, all her deciduous, baby teeth should be in.

When do puppy baby teeth fall out? Usually, they start falling out when the puppy is around 3 or 4 months (12 weeks to 16 weeks old). During this time, it's not unusual to see both baby teeth and permanent teeth (period of mixed dentition.)

By the age of six to seven months, the baby teeth should have fallen out and be replaced by permanent adult teeth in this order: canines and incisors, then pre-molars and finally molars.

This is what is supposed to happen, so you can know what to watch for and how to tell if you notice your puppy's baby teeth won't fall out.

Therefore, just to re-cap, in ideal situations, in puppies, the baby teeth should fall out naturally as the permanent adult teeth begin to come in by the time the puppy is six to seven months old. However, sometimes, this natural process doesn't go as planned.

When this occurs, your puppy's baby teeth may not fall out, forcing the adult teeth to crowd into place beside the baby teeth.

Did you know? The medical term used to depict the emergence of a tooth through the gums is known as "tooth eruption," while the medical term instead used to depict the loss of baby teeth is known as "tooth exfoliation."

Puppy's Teeth Growing Behind Baby Teeth

 A puppy's retained deciduous or baby fangs, circled in red. Notice the adult fangs coming in behind them.

A puppy's retained deciduous or baby fangs, circled in red. Notice the adult fangs coming in behind them.

Why do some dogs have retained baby teeth? It's ultimately an issue due to the incorrect eruption path of the permanent tooth, explains veterinarian Dr Salkin.

It was previously common knowledge that the presence of the baby tooth was the troublemaker, causing the permanent tooth to erupt in an unnatural position; instead, it's the eruption of the permanent tooth that is getting in the way, not allowing the baby tooth roots to absorb by the surrounding tissue, a phenomenon known as "resorption," and fall out as it should.

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Do All Dogs Have an Occiput?

Whether all dogs have an occiput is something that many dog owners may be wondering about. Yes, we're talking about that prominent bump on a dog's head.

The type of dog is also a predisposing factor. Small dogs breeds and dogs with pushed-in faces are particularly predisposed due the shape of their mouths, however, no dog regardless of breeds is completely risk-free.

Also, there may be a genetic predisposition for retained baby teeth, meaning that it can run in certain families of dogs.

Because reasons for dog retained baby teeth can vary from dog to dog, it is best to consult a veterinarian on possible causes and the best treatment approaches to use.

Did you know? The most commonly affected teeth prone to being retained are the upper canines followed by the lower canines, then the incisors, and premolars. Retained baby teeth are also usually bilateral (affecting both sides).

Picture of retained baby teeth in a 2-year old Pomeranian.

Picture of retained baby teeth in a 2-year old Pomeranian.

Several Potential Problems 

When your dog's baby teeth won't fall out, it can spell trouble for your dog even as an adult. Specifically, the presence of puppy retained baby teeth, in addition to adult dog teeth, can cause a variety of dental problems.

The most common dental problem is the adult teeth being forced to grow at an angle instead of straight up. Here, even if the deciduous teeth are ultimately removed, the adult teeth may still be misaligned, which can cause jaw pain, difficulty chewing, teeth rubbing against each other, gum ulcers, and a greater possibility of decay.

Another thing to keep into consideration is the phenomenon known as "resorption." As mentioned, when a dog's baby are about to teeth fall out, the roots are supposed to be absorbed by surrounding tissues. 

When the roots do not absorb, the baby teeth fail to fall out, and this can lead to rotting and an abscess, which can potentially create a much more problematic (and expensive) health situation.

The most dangerous health risk arises when both baby and adult teeth are present in a single tooth socket, because this prevents the dental tissues from closing fully around either tooth. 

When there are gaps around your dog's teeth, food can become trapped there, predisposing the dog to tartar, plaque, bacteria and germs which quickly start invading the gum line. This can lead to very serious issues like gingivitis and periodontal disease.

Course of Action

Causes of dog hallucinations

Today, veterinarians are trained to routinely check for the presence of baby teeth at the time your dog is spayed or neutered. If baby teeth are found, typically the vet will remove them, however, since this is a very delicate type of surgery, a referral to a veterinary specializing in teeth is often necessary.

Of course, if you got your dog from a rescue shelter, all bets are off. Even if the shelter took care of spaying or neutering, if the dog is an adult and the baby teeth are still in place, this may mean a few complicated veterinary treatments are in your shared future together.

And for those wondering, should I pull out my dog's retained baby tooth? The answer is no. These teeth are generally very deep set if they have failed to fall out and as mentioned it should be done by a specialist with x-rays and the right tools .

So as long as the procedure can be done safely, the best course of action is always to remove retained baby teeth so that at least some of the risks they pose will be alleviated. Your veterinarian can advise you further based on your dog's individual dental health situation.

Photo Credits:

  • A Yorkie's retained deciduous or baby fangs., by Socknye - Own work Yorkie's retained deciduous or baby fangs, circled in red. Both lower permanent fangs did not grow right underneath the baby fangs. CC BY 3.0

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