Healthy Adult Dog Teeth How to Be Sure Your Dog's Teeth Are in Top Shape

Healthy Adult Dog Teeth
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vet verified PetCareRx Staff Veterinarian DVM

Dogs' mouths aren't the most pleasant things, it's true. But how can you tell a healthy dog mouth from an unhealthy one? Take a look at how to spot healthy dog teeth here.

Want to make sure your adult dog’s teeth are in tip-top shape? There’s good reason: Periodontal disease, the most common illness in dogs, affects 85 percent of canines 5 years and older and is linked to loss of teeth, jaw fractures, and other serious issues, like heart, kidney, liver, and lung disease, according to the Animal Medical Center. Dental disease is also one of the most easily preventable health issues for dogs. Here’s how to get and keep healthy adult dog teeth for your dog.

checking Your Dog's Mouth

You can check your dog’s teeth by gently holding their muzzle and pulling up their lips. Dogs with good oral hygiene typically have:

  • Clean teeth, free of any browning
  • No loose teeth
  • Healthy gums can be pink, black, or even spotted, but not white or red, and should be without any evidence of inflammation or bleeding
  • No excess drool


Signs of Dental Disease in Dogs

If you're concerned your pet may be suffering from tooth problems, be on the lookout for these symptoms of dental disease:

  • Bad breath: No dog’s breath is sweet or appetizing--you’ve see what they eat--but there shouldn’t be a stench emanating from your dog’s mouth. If there is, it could be halitosis.
  • Regularly using paws around the mouth area
  • Avoidance of hard food or dropping food as they try to eat
  • Gums that are red and inflamed
  • Browning of the teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling under one eye--this can indicate a tooth root abscess

White gums are also a warning sign, but of anemia, shock, or hypothermia.

Steps to Healthy Teeth in Adult Dogs

Just one percent of pet parents brush their pet’s teeth*, which is, according to American Veterinary Dental College (AVDC), the “single most effective means to maintain oral health between dental examinations” in pets. AVDC recommends daily brushing with toothpastes and toothbrushes made for pets. Find out how to brush your dog's teeth.

If that’s just not possible with your schedule, weekly brushing is still a good idea. Here are some other tips:

  • Try a dental diet. Some dog foods are formulated to improve dental health.
  • Consider rawhide and chew treats (particularly those with anti-tartar ingredients like Greenies), which, if chewed daily, can help promote dental health.
  • Offer your pet chew toys, which, if played with routinely over time, can also help.
  • Take your dog to the vet for checkups and cleanings.
  • Ask your vet about a dental sealant to prevent plaque and tartar buildup.

When Dental Disease Goes Unnoticed

According to the AVDC, “most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner but this does not mean that they are not feeling pain.” The reason? In nature, animals do not display signs of weakness, and domestic pets can retain this trait. Because dental pain can develop over time, and is more likely to affect middle-age and older pets, the symptoms may be mistaken for a natural slowdown or a development of a “grumpy” demeanor related to age. The AVDC explains that, once treated, pets who have been living with dental pain can act years younger.

Keep on the lookout for signs of dental problems in your dog, and be sure to ask your vet about your dog’s dental health at every checkup. Your dog should see a vet at least once a year, and twice a year once they become a senior.

*According to a report by the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA)

Common Dog Teeth Problems

Canine oral disease is largely preventable with a regular dental care regime. But if your dog’s teeth go unattended, a number of problems can occur over time. Learn what dental diseases are common in dogs, and how to go about treating them here.


Bacteria sticks to your dog’s teeth, creating biofilm that becomes plaque and eventually tartar. Buildup of this hardened bacteria above and below the gum line causes inflammation of your dog’s gums. Signs of gingivitis include bleeding, redness, swollen gums, and bad breath. Gingivitis is reversible with regular teeth cleanings, but can cause serious health problems if it is not treated.


This severe stage of periodontal disease is a painful infection that occurs when bacteria flourishes under the gumline near the deeper structures that support the teeth. Signs of periodontitis include loose teeth, bad breath, tooth pain, sneezing, and nasal discharge. Periodontitis can result in tooth loss and spread infection to the rest of the body, damaging internal organs like the heart and liver. Treatment may include veterinary cleanings, removal of teeth, and antibiotics.

Proliferating gum disease

This condition is an overgrowth of the gums, in which they begin to cover up your dog’s teeth. There are two types of proliferating gum disease that commonly affect dogs: hyperplasia and epulides. Symptoms of both include an increase in height and thickness of gums, bleeding, halitosis, excess drooling, and decreased appetite. Proliferating gum disease must be treated to avoid gum infection. Common treatments include antibiotics, and in some cases, surgery.


Bad doggie breath isn’t a joking matter - it may be your first sign of serious dental health problems. Halitosis is caused by bacteria growth along the teeth and gum line. Check your dog’s mouth for tartar and plaque buildup, usually seen as a brown or yellow substance on the teeth. A consistent tooth care regime, including regular brushing and dental cleanings by your vet, is effective in stopping halitosis.


Dental caries occur less frequently in dogs due to the makeup of their saliva and tooth enamel, but can still form from bacteria on the tooth’s surface.Look for black, decaying areas on the tooth at the gum line or on top of molars, as well as softened enamel. Cavities can cause pain, difficulty in chewing, and in extreme cases, organ disease if bacterial toxins release into the bloodstream. Tooth extraction is a common treatment for caries, though some teeth can be filled and saved.

Carnassial tooth abscess

The upper fourth premolar tooth is the largest in your dog’s mouth. One of this tooth’s three roots is affected by this condition when excess bacteria travels up through the gum line, or reaches the root through the bloodstream. If this area becomes infected, it is extremely painful for your dog. Symptoms of this condition include swelling, discharge below the eye, fever, loss of appetite, and depression. External facial symptoms may look like a bug bite, a wound, or an eye infection, and the tooth typically does not look affected since the infection is internal. Tooth extraction is the most common method of treatment, though a process similar to a root canal is sometimes effective.

Periapical abscess

Like humans, dogs can also develop apical abscesses under the gumline. This infection occurs at the tip of the root, where pus formations appear under or in the tissues surrounding the dog's tooth. Typically caused by periodontal disease, this condition can cause mild to severe discomfort and will spread if left untreated. Symptoms include halitosis, discolored teeth, swollen gums, facial swelling, and sensitivity when eating.

Mouth tumors

Masses that appear in your dog’s mouth area, including the  lips, tongue, gums and lymph regions surrounding the mouth, sometimes form as a result of periodontal disease. Symptoms of mouth tumors include tooth movement, sores, bleeding, difficulty eating, excessive drooling, and halitosis. A biopsy will determine if the growth is malignant and must be surgically removed.

Dental disease carries serious risk to your dog’s health. If you notice any symptoms of these issues, be sure to consult your veterinarian.

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you know if your dog's teeth are healthy?

Maintaining your pet dog's oral health is crucial for their general well-being. If your dog's teeth are healthy, there are a few signs that can let you know. To begin with, healthy teeth are typically spotless and free of plaque and tartar accumulation. Lift your dog's lips gently, then look at their teeth for any yellowish or brownish discoloration that can indicate plaque buildup. Gums that are healthy often have a pink tint and feel firm to the touch. Any swelling, redness, or bleeding could be symptoms of an infection or gum disease. Another aspect to consider is your dog's breath. While not always pleasant, it should not have an extremely foul odor. Persistent bad breath might indicate dental issues such as infection or decay. Additionally, the way that your dog eats might provide information about their oral health. It may be because of dental pain or discomfort if they suddenly find it difficult to chew or show reluctance to eat tough foods. Similarly to this, chewing with one side of the mouth preferred or dropping food might indicate dental issues.

Do all dogs have 42 teeth?

No, not all dogs have exactly 42 teeth. Although mature dogs normally have 42 teeth in total, this number might vary based on the breed and individual dog. In contrast to adult dogs, puppies have different dental structures. Their temporary teeth, often known as "milk teeth" or "deciduous teeth," are eventually replaced by their permanent teeth. The average puppy has 28 total teeth, including incisors, canines, and premolars, but no molars. These baby teeth begin to fall out as the puppy gets older, creating room for the adult teeth. The permanent teeth include 42 teeth in most adult dogs, consisting of incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. However, there can be some variations among dog breeds. For instance, small dog breeds may have fewer teeth compared to larger breeds. Additionally, some dogs may have dental abnormalities like additional teeth or missing teeth (teeth may be entrapped inside the gums ) that might impact the total number of teeth. Although the number of teeth might vary, it's important to remember that, regardless of the precise number of teeth a dog has, keeping proper dental hygiene and getting frequent veterinarian exams are essential for their general oral health.

What color should a healthy dog's teeth be?

A healthy dog's teeth should typically have a clean, white or off-white to light yellow color. It is significant to notice that, like people, different dogs might have somewhat different tooth colors. The general rule of thumb is that teeth shouldn't be noticeably stained or too discolored, though. The teeth's enamel, which serves as their exterior layer of defense, ought to be smooth and lustrous. Any pigmentation that is darker than off-white to light yellow, like dark brown or black patches, could be a sign of dental problems. These could include plaque and tartar buildup, which can lead to tooth decay or gum disease. Additionally, teeth that appear pitted, chipped, or cracked might suggest dental damage or trauma. Along with the color of the teeth, you should observe the gums surrounding them. 

What do unhealthy dog gums look like?

Unhealthy dog gums can exhibit various visual signs that indicate potential dental problems or underlying health issues. One of the main signs of gum disease is redness or inflammation of the gums. Instead of their natural pink color, the gums may appear bright red, pale pink, or even white, indicating inflammation or irritation. Another typical indication of gum disease is swollen gums. They could look swollen, enlarged, or unnaturally protruding. Additionally, bleeding symptoms, especially when handled or brushed, might indicate damaged gums. Gum bleeding can range from very minor traces of blood to substantial hemorrhage. It's essential to remember that while slight bleeding might occasionally happen, for example, during intense chewing or while using a toothbrush, persistent bleeding is odd. The gums retreating or retracting is another alarming symptom. Normal healthy gums encircle the teeth tightly, but in severe cases of gum disease, the gums may begin to tear away, exposing the tooth roots. This can lead to tooth sensitivity, pain, and even tooth loss. Furthermore, unhealthy gums might display the presence of pus or discharge.

How do you check a dog's mouth?

Create a calm setting and gradually accustom your dog to mouth handling before checking their mouth. Gently lift their lips to reveal their teeth and gums, then look for any abnormal growths, cracks in their teeth, or discolorations. Also, check the breath for any lingering bad odors. Look for symptoms of inflammation, hardness, and pink color in the gums. Additionally, observe your dog for any indications of pain or discomfort. Create a favorable relationship by using positive reinforcement throughout the procedure. Consult a veterinarian for a professional evaluation and the necessary care if you discover any alarming discoveries or your dog displays oral health problems.

How can I make my dog's teeth healthy?

Here are a few essential methods to keep your pet's teeth in good condition. First, it's important to brush frequently. Introduce a toothbrush and toothpaste made especially for dogs, and work toward a daily brushing schedule. This aids in tartar reduction and plaque removal. Your dog should be gradually acclimated to the procedure to ensure that it is a positive one. Moreover, offer suitable chew toys that support dental health. Look for toys that are specially made to massage gums and clean teeth to help eliminate plaque and tartar. Next, think about including dental chews or treats in your dog's diet. Oftentimes, the rough surfaces of these specialty foods help clean teeth. However, pay attention to the calories in the treats and pick ones that are appropriate for the size and breed of your dog. Dental health maintenance requires routine veterinarian examinations as well. Your veterinarian can do expert cleanings, spot early indications of dental problems, and offer tailored advice. Furthermore, a balanced diet contributes to overall dental health. Opt for high-quality dog food that supports dental hygiene, such as kibble formulated to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Finally, keep an eye out for warning symptoms like poor breath, swollen gums, or difficulties eating and monitor your dog's oral health. Consult with your veterinarian right away if you experience any alarming symptoms.

What foods make dogs' teeth stronger?

Incorporating certain types of foods can help promote good oral hygiene. Firstly, choose high-quality dry kibble that is formulated to support dental health. These specially formulated kibbles frequently have a texture that aids in tartar and plaque removal as your dog chews. In addition, feeding your dog crunchy fruits and vegetables like carrots, apples, and celery can be healthy. As your dog chews on these healthy treats, their firm texture can help your dog's teeth get cleaned. Fruits should only be consumed in moderation, though, as they can be high in sugar. Giving your pet raw meaty bones or dental chews can also be beneficial because the gnawing motion helps remove tartar and plaque. To prevent any choking risks, it's critical to select safe, dog-friendly chews or bones that are the right size. Remember to consult your veterinarian for guidance on suitable dental care practices and specific dietary recommendations based on your dog's individual needs.

Is coconut oil good for dog teeth?

Yes, coconut oil is good for your dog's dental health. Coconut oil has grown in popularity for its possible health advantages in both humans and animals. Coconut oil has antibacterial qualities that can help fight oral germs that cause plaque buildup and bad breath. Additionally, coconut oil can hydrate and lubricate the gums naturally, easing any discomfort or inflammation. Additionally, it might help lower the danger of periodontal disease. Coconut oil should not, however, be used in place of routine dental care procedures, such as brushing your dog's teeth using a canine toothbrush and toothpaste.

Do carrots clean dogs' teeth?

Carrots can be a useful supplement to your dog's dental care regimen, but they should not be used as the only way to clean their teeth. When your dog may be able to mechanically remove some plaque and tartar when chewing on carrots due to their hard and crunchy texture, this is not a replacement for regular brushing or expert dental cleanings. While chewing on carrots might help remove some surface-level buildup, it could not get to all of the crevices where plaque can collect. Carrots should be fed in moderation since they contain a lot of natural sugars, which might have a detrimental effect on your dog's weight or general health.

More on Dog Dental Health

19 Products That Clean Cat and Dog Teeth
5 Ways to Improve Your Dog's Dental Health
Causes of Cat and Dog Bad Breath

This information is for informational purposes only and is not meant as a substitute for the professional advice of, or diagnosis or treatment by, your veterinarian with respect to your pet. It has, however, been verified by a licensed veterinarian for accuracy.

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Adult Periodontal Disease Bad Breath (Halitosis)

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