What to Do If Your Dog Has Supernumerary Teeth
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.
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.
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.
If the additional tooth (or teeth) is blocking the eruption pathway that your dog’s normal permanent teeth would use while growing out, it could prevent the tooth from being able to emerge from the gum normally. This can result in a partial or complete eruption failure, trapping the tooth within the gum and putting your dog at risk for cyst formation. If left unaddressed, this creates an opportunity for infection and other complications.
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.
How to Do a Home Dental Exam
One of the best steps you can take to prevent dental complications and stay on top of your dog’s dental health is to make it a habit to perform a regular dental exam at home. This will allow you to check your dog’s teeth, gums, and other areas in and around their mouth for any signs of complications. However, this is a process that you will need to introduce most dogs to gradually as they often dislike having anyone handle their mouth. Therefore, you may need to work up to doing this.
Begin by simply handling your dog’s snout, feeling all around the outside of the mouth without trying to look inside at time. When they are comfortable with that, start by gently pushing their lips back to the point that you can see the teeth and gums. This will provide you with the opportunity for an initial exam. Count your dog’s teeth, look at the way that they are lined up (or misaligned), and check for any signs of problems including bleeding gums, swelling, or unexplained lumps and bumps. An average puppy will have a total of 28 baby teeth and an average adult dog will have 42 permanent teeth.
As your dog becomes accustomed to this initial check, you can try opening your dog’s mouth up further to get a better view of their full mouth structure, the interior of the mouth, the roof of their mouth and both on and under the tongue. If at any point you notice something that seems off or concerning in your dog’s mouth, contact your veterinarian.
Supernumerary Teeth Vs. Persistent Baby Teeth
If you have a younger dog and notice that your pup has extra teeth, it may not be a case of supernumerary teeth. After all, the condition is incredibly rare, as we previously mentioned. Instead, if your dog is under a year old, your dog may be experiencing persistent baby teeth or persistent deciduous teeth.
Most common in smaller dogs and toy breeds, retained baby teeth occur when your dog’s permanent teeth are growing in, but their baby teeth aren’t falling out as they are expected to. This can cause crowding in the mouth as multiple teeth are competing for the same space. Not only can this cause problems with the alignment of their permanent teeth but it also causes additional spaces in the gums, which can increase the changes of bacteria and plaque finding their way into the roots leading to dental complications and periodontal disease.
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.
Kate Barrington is the loving owner of two cats (Bagel and Munchkin) and a noisy herd of guinea pigs. Having grown up with golden retrievers, Kate has a great deal of experience with dogs but labels herself a lover of all pets. Having received a Bachelor's degree in English, Kate has combined her love for pets and her passion for writing to create her own freelance writing business, specializing in the pet niche.
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