Puppies and kittens develop their sharp, pointy baby teeth at around three weeks of age; most puppies have 28 baby teeth and kittens have 26. By the time a pet reaches four months old, the roots of the baby teeth should begin to resorb, making way for a dog’s 42 permanent teeth and a cat’s 30 permanent teeth.
However in some cases, the root of a baby tooth may not reabsorb or will reabsorb only partially, forcing the permanent tooth to emerge at an odd angle or in an odd position. This can happen with just one tooth, a few teeth, or all of your pet’s teeth.
When teeth are crowding each other it makes it easier for food and debris to become trapped, leading to problems such as gingivitis, plaque build up, tooth decay, and periodontal disease. All of these issues can contribute to premature tooth loss.
Additional problems caused by retained deciduous teeth include: infection, pain when abnormally angled teeth rub against the roof of the mouth, interference with jaw bone development, and misalignment, leading to enamel wear.
Causes of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Dogs and Cats
The causes of retained deciduous teeth are not well understood, however small breed dogs are the most commonly affected. Predisposed breeds include the Maltese, Pomeranian, Poodle, and Yorkshire Terrier.
Symptoms of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Dogs and Cats
In addition to the presence of retained baby teeth as permanent teeth begin to emerge, your pet may also exhibit the following symptoms:
- Red, swollen gums
- Bad breath
- An oronasal fistula, which is an abnormal opening between the oral and nasal cavities
Treatment for Retained Deciduous Teeth in Dogs and Cats
If you notice that your pet’s baby teeth are still hanging on as permanent teeth begin to emerge, make an appointment with your veterinarian right away. The baby teeth will be surgically extracted to make room for the permanent teeth.
When retained baby teeth are removed early enough, the adult teeth are able to move into their correct positions. However if you wait, there is a good chance that the permanent teeth will become malpositioned. If the teeth are severely malpositioned, they may need to be selectively extracted or your veterinarian may recommend that you see an orthodontic specialist for repositioning treatment. This is a more involved and more costly treatment than early extraction.
You should check your pet’s teeth weekly for retained deciduous teeth until they are around eight months of age. If you notice any retained teeth or if your pet appears to be developing an abnormal bite, contact your veterinarian.
Retained Deciduous Teeth
Retained Deciduous Teeth (Baby Teeth) in Cats
Retained Baby Teeth in Dogs