AnesthesiaCare & WellnessDeciduous 'baby' teethDental CareDental DiseaseDiagnosisMedical ConditionsPuppy issuesRetained baby teeth

BABY CANINE TEETH – What Happens When They Stay Too Long, or Point in the Wrong Direction?

By January 30, 2022 January 26th, 2023 No Comments

Tooth development in dogs and cats is similar to that in people. The baby, or deciduous teeth, come in first, and the adult tooth then develops below the gum. If everything goes according to plan, the root of the baby tooth dissolves, the tooth falls out, making room for the adult tooth to emerge and take its place.

There are a whole host of reasons why this process goes astray, genetics being one factor. The earlier a problem is detected, the earlier a plan can be made to ensure that the adult teeth end up in their proper alignment. Malocclusions that persist can contribute to pain, infection, disease and potentially loss of the adult tooth. Two of the common issues we see is when the deciduous canine teeth are mal-positioned and when the baby canine teeth don’t fall out before the adult tooth starts to emerge. This issue is more common in small breeds, but can happen in any dog. It is not as common in cats.

This month we are profiling three young dogs, all of whom had baby canine teeth that caused problems. Fortunately, with veterinary intervention, appropriate treatment and time, all three dogs should have healthy teeth as they mature into adults.

FRANCESCA ‘FRANKIE’ is a West Highland White Terrier with a big personality and a lot of spunk. During her routine puppy visits, the doctors at Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital noticed that her lower baby teeth were in the wrong position and poking into the roof of her mouth.[BlueArrow].

Besides being painful, there is a good chance that the adult tooth would also come in at the wrong location. Frankie was started on Ball Therapy, a technique advocated by veterinary dental specialists. This goal of this technique is to help the developing teeth move into their proper location without anesthesia. While it may not work in all patients, there is no downside to trying. It is important to use the proper size ball for this technique to work.

This is after several weeks of ‘ball therapy’.

n this photo, the adult tooth (yellow arrow) is being pushed forward by the baby tooth behind (lavender arrow), and the lower baby tooth is poking into the gum.

Frankie’s teeth did move somewhat, but when her adult teeth started to emerge, it was clear we needed to intervene and extract all four of her baby canine teeth. That was performed when she was just over 5 months old. We rechecked her teeth 2 weeks post extraction and again one month. The extractions and continued ball therapy helped guide her teeth into their proper position.

The radiographs show the baby tooth and the developing adult teeth. The yellow arrow point to the adult teeth; the lavender arrows point to the deciduous crowns; the lines highlight how long the baby canine tooth roots are. You can see how complicated it may be to extract one tooth and root without disturbing the adjacent teeth.

Right side upper teeth

Left side upper teeth

SHASTA, a happy rambunctious Yellow Labrador had two of her deciduous canine teeth still present when the adult teeth started to come in. Initially there wasn’t a problem with the alignment so we elected to wait a few weeks to see if the baby teeth would fall out on their own.  At the recheck, the alignment was okay, but the deciduous teeth did not appear to be loose at all so Shasta was scheduled for anesthesia to extract the retained teeth.

The yellow arrows point to the adult teeth, the lavender arrows point to the deciduous teeth. The interesting thing with Shasta was that in two weeks’ time, from the exam to the procedure, the adult teeth had shifted and now were in the wrong place.

By the day of the extraction the teeth had moved

The yellow star marks the spot where the lower canine tooth should rest when the mouth is closed. Shasta’s lower canine is sitting slightly inside of and just behind the proper position.

This outlines the lower deciduous canine tooth right next to the adult toothAfter the teeth were extracted, we consulted with a veterinary dental specialist. The hope is that in the next few weeks, now that the deciduous teeth are gone, the adult teeth will slide back into the correct alignment. f they don’t, Shasta may need some orthodontic intervention.

 MURPHY is a Golden Retriever with a heart of gold, had two upper deciduous canine teeth that failed to fall out at the proper time. His alignment was fine, so his owner wanted to wait a little longer to see if the teeth would come out on their own. This was fine and eventually the left upper tooth appeared to fall out.

During a subsequent recheck of his mouth, the upper right baby tooth was still present so we scheduled Murphy for anesthesia to extract the remaining tooth.


Dental radiographs are essential any time we are extracting teeth; one to be able to see what is happening below the gum line, but also to ensure that all of the particular tooth is extracted.

As part of Murphy’s procedure, we took an x-ray of the upper left canine tooth. The lines indicated the root of the tooth still present. While it appeared that the baby tooth had fallen out, actually what happened was the crown broke off. The root was still present and needed to be extracted. Had this root been left it would have contributed to pain and potentially caused an infection around the adult tooth.

Extraction of deciduous teeth can be quite a delicate procedure. It takes time and skill to extract the entire tooth without touching or damaging any of the developing adult teeth which are just below the surface. The roots of dog teeth are 3 times as long as the visible crown. The deciduous canine teeth are long and narrow and root fractures can be a concern. Occasionally, we get lucky and the root is dissolving and only the crown remains. However, in the case of Frankie, Shasta and Murphy, the entire tooth root was still present and firmly adhered to the socket.


WHAT CAN YOU DO? It is important for pet owners to look at their pet’s teeth on a regular basis. When they are growing you may spot issues and can bring them to the attention of your veterinarian. For adult pets, both dogs and cats, being in the habit of checking their teeth and mouth will help you recognize problems early. And, regular home care will make a significant difference in keeping their smiles healthy.

If you think you your pet is suffering from a tooth problem, schedule an appointment today.


Fraser Hale, DVM, FAVD, DiplAVDC      Ball Therapy Technique – Retained Deciduous Teeth – Orthodontics in Pets

Robin E. Riedinger, DVM Hawthorne Hills Veterinary Hospital, Seattle WA | AnesthesiaCare & WellnessDeciduous ‘baby’ teethDental CareDental DiseaseDiagnosisMedical ConditionsPuppy issuesRetained baby teeth


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