A common case in clinic

Summer is a few days away so we wanted to take the chance to talk to our clients about an increasingly common issue we are seeing in patients.

Puppies are a bundle of fun and energy but can have some issues when it comes to teething. An increasingly common issue we are noticing is the retention of deciduous teeth, most common in smaller breed dogs, occasionally in larger dogs and less commonly in cats.

Deciduous teeth are more commonly known as baby teeth and can become an issue when these teeth do not fall out during the normal teething process. Both dogs and cats have two sets of teeth, one set temporary deciduous teeth and one set of permanent adult teeth. Dogs have 28 deciduous teeth and 42 permanent teeth, where cats have 26 deciduous teeth and 30 permanents.

Deciduous teeth should start erupting between 3-12 weeks of age. Adult teeth start to erupt from 3 months of age and should be fully present by 7 months of age. Normally the adult tooth will cause the root of the baby tooth to dissolve and the rest of the tooth falls out. Sometimes this process does not work, and the deciduous teeth become retained. The deciduous tooth should have fallen out by the time the adult tooth has come through the gum. If there are teeth there at the same time, then this is abnormal and will require extraction.

Retained deciduous teeth can cause various issues and the damage to the gum and surrounding area can start in as little as two weeks. Retained teeth can cause overcrowding, periodontal disease and can cause teeth to be in the wrong place resulting in damage to soft tissues within the mouth (Malocclusion).

Once a veterinary exam has been performed by your vet, extraction is normally recommended. Extraction of retained deciduous teeth will need to be performed under a general anaesthetic and should be done as soon as possible. The roots of these teeth are often very long and fragile, so extractions of them can take time, patience and good technique by your veterinarian. As part of the extraction process the veterinarian may need to take dental x-rays to check the entire root of the tooth has been extracted and administer nerve blocks to help with pain management.

Patients recover well following extraction of retained deciduous teeth and your veterinarian will provide you with instructions to follow post surgically.

To help with maintaining good oral hygiene a dental homecare programme can be designed for your pet. This may include the use of veterinary approved dental chews, daily brushing starting from 8 weeks of age, or specifically tailored dental diets to prevent tartare build up. We recommend a dental check at least once yearly at your annual vaccination check-up or more often if advised by your vet.