Is it normal for dog teeth to be yellow or should they be a different color? Many dog owners may wonder about what''s the the normal color of teeth in dogs, and what may cause teeth discolorations. In order to better understand what may a cause a dog's teeth to become yellow, it helps learning more about dog teeth and all the normal or abnormal shades they may present. Veterinarian Dr Ivana, goes into depth on the normal color of dog teeth and possible causes for yellow teeth in dogs .
Normal Teeth Color in Dogs
Dogs are born without teeth. The teeth start to erupt through the gums at about three weeks of age. In all, by the age of about 8 weeks, pups have grown a complete set of 28 deciduous or temporary teeth, sometimes popularly called "baby teeth." They include incisors, canines and premolars – puppies have no molars.
At about 13 weeks, the baby teeth begin to fall out, starting with the incisors, and are usually swallowed. Eventually, the roots dissolve thus making space for the adult teeth to grow. All of the adult teeth are grown by the age of 30 weeks (about 7 months). Adult dogs have 42 teeth – 20 in the upper jaw and, because it has two extra molars and 22 in the lower jaw.
The dog’s teeth are typical for a carnivore’s mouth. The small incisors are perfect for nibbling and scraping meat from bones as well as for grooming. The long and strong canines are built for seizing prey and tearing meat apart. The premolars and molars are designed to hold, shear, and cut meat and grind plant material. The dog’s teeth are significantly deeper rooted than our human teeth. In fact, in dogs, the roots are much longer than the teeth themselves!
What's the normal teeth color in dogs? Under normal circumstances, a healthy tooth should be either white or cream (all shades of white and cream are acceptable) and the surrounding gum tissue should sit tightly around the tooth. The normal teeth color depends on several factors: The shade of the enamel, the thickness of the enamel and the translucency of the enamel.
Is it Normal for Dog Teeth to Be Yellow?
Any dog tooth that is colored differently than what is considered normal is categorized as discolored. All discolored teeth are either diseased or dead. Depending on the exact issue, teeth can become yellow, pink, purple, grey or brown. Almost all discoloration-causing issues are painful. However, dogs rarely exhibit signs of pain which is why most discolored teeth remain undiagnosed until it is too late.
Regular checkups of your dog’s mouth are necessary to spot potential issues. When there is a discoloration, the first important step is to determine the source of the discoloration – whether it is on the surface or from within the tooth.
Generally, speaking, surface staining is not considered a major problem since it usually develops under normal circumstances. Namely, over time, as the dog uses its teeth, the enamel wears down which ultimately leads to discoloration.
On the flip side, if the discoloration comes from within the tooth, the whole tooth will be discolored which suggest a more serious issue – diseased or dead toot. Both diseased and dead teeth require veterinary attention. If left untreated, they can progress thus aggravating the already bad situation.
Help, My Dog Has Yellow Teeth!
Yellow teeth discoloration in dogs develops due to several possible causes. Here are a few possible causes.
The Impact of Medications
Certain drugs, such as the antibiotic named tetracycline, can cause permanent changes to the teeth’s color. The same drug is responsible for teeth discoloration in humans too. Namely, this is because some of the substances found in the antibiotic attach themselves with the teeth’s calcium. That attachment results in yellow to sometimes brown staining.
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The discoloration is more likely to occur in young puppies (less than 6 months of age) with developing teeth. However, it is also possible for a pregnant mother to pass the teeth discoloration to her unborn puppies (if she received the tetracycline during pregnancy).
Tetracycline is the antibiotic of choice for many canine bacterial infections. If you have a puppy younger than 6 months of age or a pregnant mother that need antibiotic treatment it is advisable to discuss the potential side-effects with your trusted vet.
Plaque and Tartar Accumulation
If you notice the formation of yellow deposits on the teeth’s more often than not they are indicative of plaque and tartar accumulation. In addition of yellow, the masses can also have brownish coloration.
Tartar develops from plaque. Plaque is the sticky, yellow to tan-colored material that forms on the teeth after eating. When blended with the saliva’s salts, the plaque takes on a harder more resistant texture. Over time the hardened plaque transforms into tartar (or calculi). Tartar attracts more plaque thus causing a vicious cycle that gradually deteriorates your dog's dental health.
Tartar is a serious problem that warrants a trip to the vet’s office. If left untreated, it will eventually cause gingivitis and ultimately – periodontal disease. Thorough dental cleaning with a special machine is necessary to remove the tartar and prevent further issues. The medical term for dental cleaning is ultrasonic scaling and polishing.
Also known as amelogenesis imperfecta, this is a condition that develops as a result of inadequate enamel development. Enamel is the coating of the teeth. Enamel hypoplasia usually occurs in more than one tooth. It can be caused by a plethora of underlying causes, from traumas and injuries to poor nutrition and infectious diseases such as distemper. Enamel hypoplasia manifests with yellow to brown discoloration and enamel irregularities (such as small hollows on the tooth surface).
Dentinogenesis imperfect instead is a developmental condition that manifests with irregular development of the dentin which leads to compromised structure and integrity of the teeth. Over time, the compromised anatomy of the teeth may lead to yellow to brown discoloration.
Taking Good Care of Your Dog's Teeth
Taking proper care of your dog’s teeth includes the following steps:
- Regular teeth brushing (by regular we mean no less than 3 times per week)
- Using the right toothpaste (formulated specifically for dogs)
- Frequent use of chew sticks, bones and toys
- Regular dental checkups at the vet’s office.
About the Author
Dr. Ivana Crnec is a graduate of the University Sv. Kliment Ohridski’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Bitola, Republic of Macedonia.
She currently practices as a veterinarian in Bitola and is completing her postgraduate studies in the Pathology of Domestic Carnivores at the Faculty of Veterinary Medicine in Zagreb, Croatia.
Ivana’s research has been published in international journals, and she regularly attends international veterinary conferences.