Healthy Dog Teeth: What’s Normal According to Vets

How can you distinguish between healthy dog teeth and unhealthy ones? We asked a couple of veterinarians for advice on how dog teeth should look.

Jun 14, 2024·5 min read
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Healthy Dog Teeth: What’s Normal According to Vets

Cleaning your pup’s teeth prevents more than bad doggy breath. Just like in humans, dental care for dogs is crucial for maintaining their overall health. We brush our teeth every day and go to the dentist for regular checkups and professional cleanings. Why shouldn’t we want the same for our pets? 

Let’s dive into why your dog’s dental health is so important, what their teeth and gums should look like, and how you can easily upgrade your pup’s dental routine at home. 

The Importance of Keeping Your Dog’s Teeth Healthy

Keeping up with our own dental health may come as second nature, but, as pet parents, the same thought and effort rarely goes into our dog’s teeth. Healthy dog teeth come with a lot of benefits, aside from minty fresh doggy kisses.

Not only does a healthy mouth “ensure that [your dog] can comfortably eat to receive the proper nutrients in their diet,” says Dr. Chyrle Bonk, but it also prevents bacteria and infections from occurring. “A dog’s mouth is home to a lot of bacteria, which if not kept in check with proper dental care, can travel to other areas of the body, such as the heart, and cause major problems.” 

What Do Healthy Dog Teeth Look Like? 

Dr. Amy Attas explains that dog teeth “should be white or ivory in color and free of yellow or brown buildup at the top which is a sign of plaque or tartar.” 

Healthy dog teeth should also be straight, whole, and properly spaced without overcrowding, which is common in smaller breeds. “Crowding can lead to more tartar buildup and infections.”

However, discerning whether your dog’s pearly whites are, in fact, healthy comes down to paying attention to other parts of your dog’s mouth, too. 

Your dog’s gums “should be pink and firm, not swollen, and with no visible blood or pus,” says Dr. Attas. She also notes that some dogs have other dark pigments on their gums or tongue (such as Chow Chows) but that doesn’t necessarily indicate problems. 

Healthy Vs. Unhealthy Dog Teeth: A Quick Comparison Chart 

A dog’s tooth color and shape, their gum lines, and how the teeth are set can tell owners a lot about your canine’s overall dental health. Here’s a quick overview of what to look for:

HealthyUnhealthy
Teeth ColorWhite or ivoryNoticeable plaque or tartar that is yellowish brown, black, or purple
Teeth AlignmentStraight, evenly spacedOvercrowded, crooked, uneven spacing
Tooth ShapeWhole, no noticeable wearBroken or fractured teeth, uneven wear
Tooth SettingA tight seal around each toothReceding or engorged gum lines
GumlinePink (purple/black for some breeds), firm, moistRed, swollen, visible blood or pus

Other Signs of a Healthy Mouth in Dogs 

Overall oral health in dogs goes beyond just their teeth—it’s important for pet parents to inspect their dog’s entire mouth. 

According to Dr. Kathryn Dench, “a healthy dog’s mouth will have a moist, pink tongue without any sores or discoloration. The roof of their mouth should also be smooth and free from lesions.” There should not be any abnormal growths or masses in the dog’s mouth.

And while some dog owners may think their dog’s breath is naturally stinky, this is actually a strong indicator that there could be an underlying issue. “Their breath should be relatively neutral. Consistently foul-smelling breath can indicate dental disease or other health issues,” says Dr. Dench.

The Best Way to Check and Clean Your Dog’s Teeth at Home

It’s strongly recommended to get your pup used to having their mouth examined and cleaned from the get-go. 

  1. Start by softly petting and handling your dog’s muzzle, rewarding good behavior with a treat for positive reinforcement. In other words, time to check teeth = time for extra treats and pets!
  2. Once they’re comfortable, gently lift up the lips and examine their teeth. They may be finicky about the back teeth at first, so go slowly and be careful with your fingers. Again, give praise or a treat as you go.
  3. For cleaning, introduce a dog-specific toothbrush and toothpaste. NEVER use human toothpaste on a dog, since the ingredients can be toxic. Brush in a circular motion, focusing on the gum line. The best results are seen when brushing is done on a regular basis – at least three times per week (daily if possible).
Infographic on brushing dog teeth and keeping teeth healthy

What to Do if You Notice Dog Dental Problems

If you notice any changes or problems with your dog’s dental health, it’s important to schedule a call or visit with your veterinarian. They can give you a personalized diagnosis and treatment plan or refer you and your pup to a veterinary dentist if necessary. 

Dental care is vital for your dog’s well-being, and it’s never too late to start. With a combination of regular tooth brushing, at-home dental care products, and your vet’s guidance, pet parents can have peace of mind knowing their dog’s teeth are just as healthy as they are shiny.

Emily JohnsonE
WRITTEN BY

Emily Johnson

Emily Johnson has always been a lover of animals and all things content. She’s grown up with numerous cats and dogs, along with riding and owning horses for 20+ years, and wanted to make animals a vital part of her life and career. Emily currently resides in North Carolina with her fiancé and their rescue dog and two cats. You can typically find her at her desk (with a cat in her lap and a Diet Coke in hand), on a nature walk with her pup, or reading a book after work.

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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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