The recommended treatment is extraction of the deciduous tooth. This allows the adult tooth to move into its normal position. Waiting too long to remove or not removing the deciduous tooth may result in a malocclusion that may be associated with pain. In these cases, more aggressive treatment, including extraction of the adult teeth and/or orthodontics, may be required.
Like people, dogs lose their baby teeth (also called deciduous teeth) as their adult (permanent) teeth erupt. This usually happens by the time they are about 6 months old. In some dogs (more commonly in small breeds), this does not happen normally and the baby teeth remain when the permanent teeth come in. This is commonly referred to as retained, or persistent, deciduous teeth. This leads to problems as two teeth occupy the same area, causing the adult teeth to erupt in an abnormal position or at an abnormal angle. If left untreated it can lead to a malocclusion (abnormal bite) and periodontal disease.
What Dogs Have Retained Baby Teeth?
Some breeds of dogs are predisposed to retaining baby teeth but it can happen to any young dog. Brachycephalic or smushed-face dogs like pugs, Shih-tzus, and bulldogs along with small breeds like chihuahuas and Pomeranians are more likely to have baby teeth that dont want to leave. Occasionally larger breeds will also have this problem but it is far less common in dogs with bigger mouths. There can also be a genetic predisposition to having retained baby teeth so if the parents of a puppy had retained baby teeth it is more likely that their puppies will also.
Diagnosis of Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs
When a pet owner notices that a dog appears to have deciduous teeth next to adult teeth, it should be made a priority to contact a veterinarian. Pet owners should keep track of the progress on a dogs teeth during the first seven to eight months, in addition to daily dog teeth brushing to keep the mouth clean. A veterinarian may delay a potential extraction process until spaying or neutering the animal due to general anesthesia that will be needed to examine or extract the teeth.
Veterinarians may complete X-rays of the dogs mouth to determine whether stubborn teeth are not coming out in a timely manner and whether adult teeth are growing in. Looking for signs of pain may prove to be more difficult since dogs will more often than not either mask the pain or just grow used to it. This is why veterinarians do a complete examination of the mouth.
Retained Deciduous Teeth. Dr. Dan explains puppy baby teeth.
Retained baby teeth in a dog. Notice the beginning of accumulation of tartar at the top.
Baby teeth are the first set of teeth your dog has as a puppy. All puppies are born without teeth, but as they develop around four weeks of age, they start gaining their first set of 28 baby teeth.
Also known as milk teeth, primary teeth, or deciduous teeth, as the name implies, baby teeth are meant to be only temporary, meaning that they are meant to fall out and be replaced by their permanent adult teeth. The puppy teething stage is then over.
In a normal situation, baby teeth fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth without issues. Problems start though when they fail to shed, becoming retained. As the name implies, retained baby teeth are therefore baby teeth that dont shed despite the permanent tooth growing.
The term diphyodont is used to depict any animal known to develop two successive sets of teeth: the “deciduous” baby teeth set and the “permanent” adult teeth set.
Not too long ago, it was believed that the presence of the baby tooth was the cause for the permanent adult tooth to grow in an unnatural position. Nowadays, we know that the opposite is true. Its the incorrect eruption path of the permanent adult tooth that causes difficulty in the baby tooth falling out.
To better understand this, it helps to gain a closer insight into the whole process. Ideally, the roots of a puppys baby teeth are resorbed, meaning that the roots dissolve because the properly positioned permanent teeth push them out. With the roots resorbed, the baby teeth should fall out.
The process of baby teeth falling out is professionally known as exfoliation. In puppies, the exfoliation process starts around 14 weeks of age, but this can vary greatly from breed to breed.
While the exact process is still unclear, it is believed that baby teeth fail to fall out when the permanent teeth are not positioned correctly. With an incorrect eruption path, the permanent teeth are therefore incapable of exerting the necessary push to cause the baby teeth to shed.
In general, retained baby teeth are more common in small dog breeds, but large dogs can be affected too. Some teeth are more predisposed to become retained, primarily the canines, followed then by the incisors and premolars. It is not unusual for both sides of the mouth to be affected.
Small dogs are particularly predisposed because they have the same amount of teeth as any larger dog, but all these teeth are enclosed in a small mouth. This leads to crowding.
There are chances that some dogs may have a genetic predisposition for retained baby teeth considering that it seems to appear almost predictably in some families of dogs.
In the veterinary field there is a popular saying: “Two teeth should not occupy the same place at the same time.”
Retained baby teeth may appear like a minor problem and are often shrugged off by dog owners as something not significant other than being somewhat unsightly. “Its not like my dog has to enter a beauty contest and have perfect teeth,” an owner once remarked when, at the vets office, her dog was found to have several retained baby teeth.
Instead, retained baby teeth can be troublesome in many ways. If left untreated, it can potentially lead to lifelong dental problems. What kind of problems?
First of all, consider that the presence of baby teeth causes permanent teeth to continue to grow in an abnormal position. When teeth grow abnormally, they may cause a malocclusion (an improper bite where teeth do not meet as they should) which can cause trauma to the dogs tongue, palate and mandible. Affected dogs may develop pain and potential infections potentially leading to oronasal fistulas.
On top of this, because the mouth is crowded, food and debris tend to easily accumulate in this tricky area, thus predisposing the site to the formation of tartar, therefore making affected dogs more predisposed to periodontal disease.
It goes without saying that retained baby teeth can become quite troublesome, hence why veterinarians recommend early removal.