Dog Dental Chart: A Scientific Diagram of Your Canine’s Teeth

A dog dental chart is a tool used by veterinarians to help assess the health of your dog’s teeth. But it can also help pet parents at home. Learn how.

Jun 28, 2024·7 min read
Dog Dental Chart: A Scientific Diagram of Your Canine’s Teeth

As dog parents, we love to see a gleaming set of pearly white teeth in our dog’s mouth. But how much thought do we give to the dental health of our canine companions?

Dental health is vital to overall health, but it may not be at the top of many dog parents’ minds.

Fortunately, veterinarians have a tool — a dog dental chart — to keep close track of a dog’s teeth. A dental chart allows your vet to record any tooth abnormalities they see during an oral exam.

Pet parents can also use a dental chart to note teeth that don’t look right at home.

Dental charts for dogs aren’t easy to understand at first glance, so we will explain how they work and how vets use them.

Canine Dental Chart: A Visual Overview

Infographic visual showing a dog and puppy dental chart

Dog Teeth Types and Functions 

A basic understanding of dental anatomy will help you understand dog dental charts better. 

Dogs have four types of teeth, each varying in function, location in the mouth, and appearance. We’ll describe the types of dog teeth — starting from the front of the mouth and working toward the back. 

Incisors 

Incisors are front and center in your dog’s mouth. Shaped like small squares or rectangles, they are used to scrape food. Dogs also use incisors to pick out debris and pesky parasites from their skin and fur, such as fleas and insects. 

Canines 

Canines are the long, pointy teeth located next to the incisors. They are used to tear food or lock onto something, like a favorite chew toy. 

Premolars 

A dog’s premolars are behind the canines. They have sharp edges and are used for shredding and chewing tough food. 

Molars 

Molars are located behind the premolars and are the furthest back in the mouth. They help break down food that’s especially tough to chew, like crunchy kibble. 

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have? 

An adult dog has 42 teeth — 20 on the top (maxillary teeth) and 22 on the bottom (mandibular teeth). The number of teeth an adult dog has, according to teeth type, is listed below: 

  • Incisors = 12 (6 maxillary, 6 mandibular) 
  • Canines = 4 (2 maxillary, 2 mandibular) 
  • Premolars = 16 (8 maxillary, 8 mandibular) 
  • Molars = 10 (4 maxillary, 6 mandibular) 

If you look at the top and bottom rows of dog teeth, you’ll notice that the left and right halves of the mouth are mirror images of each other. This means the teeth are arranged the same way in each half. 

How Many Teeth Do Puppies Have?   

Puppies have 28 teeth — 14 on the top (maxillary) and 14 on the bottom (mandibular).  

Puppies have incisors, canines, and premolars but not molars, which are present only as adult teeth. Also, puppies have fewer premolars than adult dogs do. Here’s the breakdown of puppy teeth, according to type: 

  • Incisors = 12 (6 maxillary, 6 mandibular) 
  • Canine = 4 (2 maxillary, 2 mandibular) 
  • Premolar = 12 (6 maxillary, 6 mandibular) 

Like children, puppies have a set of baby teeth, also called deciduous or milk teeth, that start to fall out and get replaced by adult teeth when puppies are a few months old. 

Puppies usually have their complete set of adult teeth by about 6 months old. Sometimes, baby teeth stay in longer than they should and need to be removed surgically. 

How Veterinarians Use Dog Dental Charts 

Veterinarians and veterinary dentists use canine dental charts to document teeth appearance during oral exams. A limited oral exam can be conducted when a dog is awake to evaluate things like general teeth positioning. However, a comprehensive oral exam requires sedation. 

During a comprehensive oral exam, the veterinarian or veterinary dentist examines each tooth while the veterinary nurse acts as a scribe, noting on the dental chart which teeth have abnormalities as the vet calls them out. The dental chart can be a digital version or a paper copy.  

Canine Dental Chart Numbers 

So, how will the veterinary nurse know exactly which tooth the veterinarian refers to? The answer is a 3-numbered numbering system — the modified triadan system — which ensures quick, easy, and accurate identification of each tooth. 

This system is not the only way to identify teeth during an oral exam but is very popular in veterinary medicine. 

Each of the three numbers indicates a location identifier for each tooth. In adult dogs, the first number indicates the quadrant of the mouth: 

  • 1 = right maxillary 
  • 2 = left maxillary 
  • 3= left mandibular 
  • 4 = right mandibular 

In puppies, the first number also indicates mouth quadrant numbers but goes from 5 to 8: 

  • 5 = right maxillary 
  • 6 = left maxillary 
  • 7 = left mandibular 
  • 8 = right mandibular 

For adults and puppies, the second and third numbers identify the teeth type: 

  • Incisors: 01, 02, 03 
  • Canines: 04 
  • Premolars: 05, 06, 07, 08 
  • Molars: 09, 10, 11 

Here are some examples using these canine dental chart numbers: 

  • Tooth 109: Right maxillary molar 
  • Tooth 302: Left mandibular incisor 
  • Tooth 507: Deciduous (puppy) right maxillary premolar 

Don’t worry if this system sounds confusing. Your veterinary staff is skilled in dental charting and will gladly explain it. 

Using Dental Charts for Dental Grading in Dogs 

Dental charts are also useful for documenting periodontal disease, a disease of tooth-supporting structures like the gums. Nearly 90 percent of dogs have some degree of periodontal disease by age 3. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause discomfort, rotten teeth, and ultimately lead to tooth removal. 

Dental grading for periodontal disease goes from 0 to 4: 

  • Grade 0: A healthy mouth! No signs of periodontal disease. 
  • Grade 1: Mild gingivitis (gum inflammation) and mild tartar (hardened plaque). 
  • Grade 2: Mild to moderate loss of tooth support and significant gingivitis. 
  • Grade 3: Greater than > 50% loss of tooth support. 
  • Grade 4: Loose teeth, possible pus-like discharge from pockets of infection in the gums. Significant gum recession. Severe tartar buildup. 

Tips for Improving Your Dog’s Dental Score 

Regular at-home dental care can go a long way to keeping your dog’s mouth as healthy and strong as possible. 

A dental routine can begin at any age, but the younger, the better. That way, your dog gets used to you cleaning their teeth and looking inside their mouth. 

Here are some other tips for at-home dental care: 

Use a dog-safe toothbrush and toothpaste. Make sure you use a toothpaste that is formulated specifically for your canine companion. Human toothpaste can be toxic to dogs. 

Get your dog chewing. The act of chewing can help break up plaque on your dog’s teeth, so it doesn’t accumulate and harden into tartar. You can try dental chew toys with ridges and nubs to encourage chewing and help clean teeth. 

Feed a dental diet. Dental diets are formulated to prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar on teeth. They are available either over the counter or with a veterinary prescription. 

Your veterinarian can recommend at-home dental products for your dog. You can also visit the Veterinary Oral Health Council website for product recommendations. 

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVMJ
WRITTEN BY

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM

JoAnna Pendergrass, DVM, is a veterinarian and freelance medical writer. As the founder and owner of JPen Communications, JoAnna is passionate about educating pet parents and empowering them to make informed health decisions for their pets. Since 2016, she has written hundreds of articles on a variety of topics in pet care, including behavior, wellness, and nutrition. In her free time, JoAnna enjoys playing the viola, baking, and seeing the world through the eyes of her fearless toddler.

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The information contained within this site is not intended as a substitute for professional medical or veterinary advice. PetLab Co. is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. If your pet has, or you suspect your pet has any medical condition, you are urged to consult your veterinarian. Medical conditions can only be diagnosed by a licensed veterinarian. These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Results May Vary. Not intended for human consumption. Please consult your veterinarian regarding any change in treatment or supplementation.
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