What to Do if Your Dog Has Supernumerary Teeth

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Super-what?

Yes, supernumerary. It’s a real word, go look it up.

No, don’t–we’re happy to tell you. It’s essentially a situation where your dog has extra teeth.

You may not know it, but your dog has about one-third more teeth in his mouth than you have in yours. Not only does he have more teeth, but they are larger and sharper. Dogs go through the same process of growing then losing baby teeth before their permanent teeth grow in as humans do, and most dogs have their permanent teeth by four months of age. Though most dogs have a total of 42 permanent teeth, in rare occurrences a dog develops supernumerary teeth, or extra teeth.

Related: Why Are Small Breed Dogs Susceptible to Tooth Loss?

Whether your vet or veterinary dental specialist calls it supernumerary teeth or extra teeth, the medical condition is called hyperdontia. It’s when teeth or other odontogenic (other parts of the tooth/gum developmental process) structures develop in larger quantity than they should. Either they come from a cleaved tooth bud or a regular tooth bud that split. Sometimes heredity plays into your dog having extra or supernumerary teeth.

It’s a rare occurrence and even more rare in baby (deciduous) teeth. A supernumerary tooth can be erupted or impacted, a single or multiple tooth situation and can be unilateral or bilateral in your dog’s mouth.

Do Supernumerary Teeth Cause Problems?

It is fairly rare for dogs to develop supernumerary teeth and, in cases when they do, they may or may not cause any secondary problems. If a problem does occur, it is most likely to be some level of malocclusion or crowding of the teeth – it depends where the extra teeth grow in. Even if your dog isn’t displaying any signs of pain or discomfort, you should still have the teeth radiographed (x-rayed) to make sure they are growing in properly, so they won’t cause a problem.

Related: Is Your Dog’s Bad Breath Telling You Something About Their Health?

In cases were supernumerary teeth are likely to cause malocclusion (or they already have), your veterinarian may recommend extraction. Not only can extra teeth cause crowding in the mouth, but if they are misaligned they can cause damage to the dog’s normal teeth. When the teeth become too crowded, it increases the risk for food getting stuck between the teeth which can then lead to the accumulation of bacteria and the formation of plaque. These things increase your dog’s risk for developing periodontal disease. It’s most important to see what your vet suggests when it comes to treating supernumerary teeth in dogs because their experience level will be able to guide you in what’s best for your dog’s specific situation.

Tips for Preserving Your Dog’s Dental Health

Caring for your dog’s teeth is just as important as caring for your own, though it is something many dog owners neglect to do. Perhaps this is why, according to the American Veterinary Dental College, most dogs have some degree of periodontal disease by the time they reach three years of age. Taking care of your dog’s teeth is not difficult, but it does take some effort. Here are some simple tips to follow in keeping your dog’s teeth clean and healthy:

  • Brush your dog’s teeth after every meal or, at the very least, once a day.
  • If your dog won’t let you brush his teeth, you can use a tooth wipe to help remove plaque.
  • Give your dog dental treats on occasion to help scrape plaque and tartar off his teeth – just don’t use these treats as a substitute for brushing.
  • Make sure your dog has plenty of chews – the act of chewing can help remove plaque and it simulates the production of enzymes in the mouth that promote dental health.
  • Talk to your veterinarian about professional cleanings once a year or so.

If you are concerned about your dog’s dental health or think that he might have supernumerary teeth, talk to your veterinarian. Your vet will be able to make recommendations for how to keep your dog’s teeth clean and healthy – he will also be able to diagnose and treat supernumerary teeth.