Teething is a trying time for a puppy. His gums swell and become tender as the adult teeth are breaking through, and he has an irresistible urge to chew on everything in sight. This difficult time, which usually lasts from 3 to 7 months of age, can be worse if the puppy teeth don't fall out as they should.
When a puppy reaches around 3 months old, his baby teeth will start to fall out as the permanent teeth emerge. It usually takes about four months for this process to occur for all of the teeth, starting in the front and working toward the back. The adult teeth should come in directly on top of the baby teeth, causing the root of each baby tooth to dissolve so that the tooth falls out as the new adult tooth becomes visible in the puppy's mouth.
If an adult tooth is not lined up exactly with the baby tooth, it is possible for it to emerge in the mouth without causing the roots of the baby tooth to dissolve. In this case, both teeth will be crowded inside of the puppy's mouth with the baby tooth firmly in place. It may appear as if the puppy has two rows of teeth. Any dog can have a retained baby tooth, but the problem is more common in toy breeds, as well as those with short, flat noses, such as boxers and bulldogs.
In most cases, a retained baby tooth should be removed immediately to make room for the adult tooth. If the temporary tooth is removed soon enough, the adult tooth may be able to grow into the right place at the correct angle without any further intervention. A veterinarian or animal dentist typically will place the puppy under general anesthesia and surgically remove the baby tooth. In some cases, however, your veterinarian may recommend waiting a short time to see if the retained tooth falls out on its own or until the puppy is spayed or neutered so that he only needs to go under anesthesia one time.
A baby tooth that is allowed to remain in place for too long can cause serious problems. The adult teeth will not be able to grow into the correct place, which could cause the bite to become uneven, eventually causing jaw problems. Food also can become trapped between the teeth, resulting in the buildup of bacteria and heavy tartar. If the extra teeth rub against other teeth in the mouth, it can wear away the protective enamel. Because of these potential problems, it's not a good idea to delay removing retained puppy teeth, unless your veterinarian advises otherwise.
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