Show us those canines!

By Betsy Cribb
December 16, 2019

Ask any dog lover about their precious pups, and we can tell you just about everything—their favorite toys, why they put their paws on us, and which human foods they try to sneak from the table most frequently. Ask how we get them to smile for the cutest ever Instagram photos, and we’ve got a few tricks for that too. But there are some questions—like, how many teeth do dogs actually have?—that require an expert source.

“Dogs usually have 42 teeth,” says Dr. Bryan Cribb of Charleston Veterinary Care in South Carolina.

While there may be some breed and individual variation, says Cribb, most dogs have 42 permanent teeth: 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 4 molars on top, plus 6 incisors, 2 canines, 8 premolars, and 6 molars on the bottom. The number of premolars is where that variation in tooth count is most likely to occur, he notes.

Generally, Cribb says, dogs will lose their puppy teeth and have their permanent teeth by 6 months old. While you may find a puppy tooth here and there on your floor, it’s more likely that your puppy will swallow those teeny teeth when she eats—no harm done.

But after those permanent choppers come in, dental hygiene is all-important for your pooch.

Once a dog is three years old, a good rule of thumb is to take your dog to the vet for an annual teeth cleaning. For dental care between visits, you can use dog toothpaste for regular brushing (human toothpaste has too much fluoride, and peroxide can make dogs sick). “Dogs typically have worse tartar accumulation on the outside of their teeth, rather than the inside,” notes Cribb. “So don’t worry if you can’t brush the back of the teeth.”

There’s also an unlikely offender that is wearing down your pup’s pearly whites: Tennis balls. Your pup’s constant gnawing on the felt covering can wear down his teeth, dulling and eroding them, says Cribb. Veterinarian-recommended treats, like OraVet Dental Hygiene Chews, are a more tooth-friendly alternative, he says.

So there you have it. Next time someone asks how many teeth your furry friend has, you’ll have an answer for that too.

*Editor’s note: Dr. Cribb is the South’s best veterinarian, as voted by me, a Southern Living editor…and also his daughter.