Do you know the normal number of teeth in dogs and cats? Puppies have 28 teeth, while adult dogs have 42. Kittens on the other hand have 26 teeth, and adult cats have 30. These adult teeth erupt during the first six months of life, and it is very important to monitor this transition from ‘baby’ or deciduous teeth to ‘adult’ or permanent teeth.
So, the real question is…is the bite right? As opposed to normal occlusion, malocclusion involves teeth abnormally contacting other teeth or soft tissue which can result in pain and discomfort. It is easy to overlook occlusal problems, as the lips and cheeks usually block direct view of the teeth. A thorough oral examination beginning with the initial puppy visit can identify significant abnormalities that may require immediate attention.
The scissor bite refers to the normal relationship between the upper and lower teeth. It is normal for the upper incisors (front teeth) to just overlap the lower incisors, the lower canine to fit between the last incisor and upper canine and for an even interdigitation of upper and lower molar teeth (do yourself a favour and look up an image online!). Malocclusions are variations of the bite from normal. This may be due to the teeth being abnormally positioned, or the jaw being misaligned.
Flat faced breeds have ‘abnormal’ bites that are recognised as being ‘normal’ for their breed, where the lower jaw protrudes in front of the upper jaw and alters the above tooth to tooth relationship.
Clinical experience of malocclusions is surprisingly lower in cats than dogs, however, malocclusions do occur in cats.
Most malocclusions aren’t just a cosmetic issue, some may cause difficulty or discomfort when eating or chewing, while others may cause trauma to the gums, palate, cheeks, other teeth and lead to excessive tartar and calculus build up.
When a malocclusion causes trauma or pain to other teeth or soft tissues, the condition is termed non-functional and treatment is usually required. Treatment may include extraction, moving the offending teeth (pet orthodontics) or surgically creating additional space for malpositioned teeth to occupy. Be sure to monitor the transition of your puppies’ teeth to adulthood to reduce the risks of malocclusions and if you aren’t sure what is ‘normal’ just ask your friendly Vet.