Everything You Need To Know About A Dog’s Mouth

In this blog, we learn all about the dog mouth anatomy. We’ll discover what healthy dog gums should look like, the dog teeth anatomy, and how to keep your dog’s mouth clean…

Oct 13, 2023·5 min read
Everything You Need To Know About A Dog’s Mouth

Dog Mouth Anatomy

Like our human mouths, the dog mouth contains a tongue, teeth, and gums, and the mouth is surrounded by cheeks and lips. It’s located in the front, lower part of the face. Their entire mouth is lined with mucus membranes that manufacture and secrete saliva from their glands, keeping it moist and helping move debris and food down into the throat. 

A dog’s tongue, like a human’s, primarily helps guide and process food and water into the esophagus and has tastebuds that allow your dog to process tastes and scents. A dog’s tongue also helps them regulate their body temperature when they pant, and they also use it to clean themselves and (potentially) their puppies!

A dog’s teeth are used to chew, tear, nibble, carry, puncture and grind food and toys. They are used when playing with other pups or sometimes utilized as a weapon to protect themselves from harm or attack a threat.

Their mouth is also an additional airway, in addition to the nose. The mouth will be used more than the nasal passage to breathe when a dog exercises, becomes excited or if the nose is blocked.

A small black and tan dog pants exposing their tongue and bottom teeth. Their tongue is pink with a patch of black pigmentation

What Should A Dog’s Gums Look Like?

A dog’s oral health is essential for helping ensure their overall health, and the color of their gums can often be a good indicator of where they’re at health-wise. Depending on your dog and their breed, a healthy set of dog gums should be pink, ranging from soft pink to bright pink. A set of healthy dog gums should also be moist.

Some dogs have pigmentation on their gums, causing them to appear black in color. If they have naturally blacker gums, to be sure your dog’s gum health is in tip-top condition, check the lighter spots on their gums for that essential pink shade, the non-pigmented areas, or check the area underneath their tongue. If you press down on the pink gum, it should turn white. When your finger leaves the gum, it should then pop back to pink pretty much immediately. 

How Many Teeth Do Dogs Have?

Adult dogs usually have 42 adult teeth (28 when puppies).

Dog Teeth Anatomy

The dog teeth anatomy includes:

Molars; The teeth at the far back of both the upper and lower jaw, these teeth crush and grind.

Premolars; The teeth just before the molars in both jaws, these tear and chew. You’ll know your dog is using their premolars when they tilt their head to one side to chew!

Canines; the long teeth that frame the smaller front teeth, these are used for puncturing and for holding objects in the mouth. 

Incisors; the teeth right at the front of both jaws, these are utilized when nibbling, grooming or when stripping meat.

For most doggies, when the jaws close the upper jaw’s incisors just overlap the lower ones. However, with most flat-faced breeds (like Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, or Pugs), the opposite occurs which can cause issues with eating and make these breeds more prone to tooth decay and gum disease.

a close up image of a golden retriever's open mouth

Is A Dog’s Mouth Cleaner Than A Human’s?

Unfortunately, this is a common misconception. Both have a very similar amount of bacteria living in their mouth and both are full of different microbes, some of which appear in both a dog’s and human’s mouth and some which don’t – they’re actually pretty incomparable because of this. 

However, both a dog mouth and a human mouth require manual cleaning as both are susceptible to gum discomfort and tooth plaque build-up. Regular brushing of your dog’s teeth is essential for their overall health as well as their mouth too, as the bacteria that collects in their mouth can make its way down into their body and then make them unwell.

How To Clean A Dog’s Teeth

The key to avoiding teeth and gum occasional issues in your dog’s mouth is by caring for it as you would your own. Dogs get plaque build-up just like we do, so they need to have their teeth brushed too. In order to help your dog live a happy and full life, cleaning their teeth regularly is imperative.

You should brush your dog’s teeth two/three times a week with a dog enzymatic toothpaste and use dental mouthwash every day. Do not use human toothpaste on dogs, as it may contain ingredients that are harmful and toxic to dogs (such as artificial sweeteners or foaming agents).

a red, white and blue infographic detailing how to brush a dog's teeth

PetLab Co. Pro Tip: It’s important to take your dog to the vet for a deep tooth clean at least once a year, preferably twice. These visits also give your vet a chance to do a thorough check, enabling them to spot and respond to any issues before they become big (and expensive!) problems.


“The Dog Dentition And The Purpose Of Each Teeth” Pedigree https://uk.pedigree.com/caring/my-dogs-health/the-dog-dentition-and-the-purpose-of-each-teeth

Author Dr. Spielman, Bari “Structure And Function Of The Tongue, Teeth And Mouth In Dogs” Aug 03. 2015, Pet Place https://www.petplace.com/article/dogs/pet-health/structure-and-function-of-the-tongue-teeth-and-mouth-in-dogs/

Sarah MiltonS

Sarah Milton

Comes from a family of animal lovers and got to grow up with a menagerie of pets! I believe owning a pet is a privilege and I love researching and creating informative, fun content for fellow pet owners to help their furry friends have the happiest and healthiest lives. When I’m not writing blogs, you can find me sharing a walk with my pet dachshund or at a yoga class!

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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.
*In Amazon Pet Health Category in 2022
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