As your puppy is going through their teething phase, keep retained teeth in mind. When you bring your puppy in for vaccination appointments, your veterinarian will check for any retained baby teeth. This means the adult tooth has started to come out beside a baby tooth that never fell out. The retained baby tooth can damage the adult tooth and if not removed early enough, the adult tooth grows misplaced or crooked, leading to long term pain, difficulty eating and other problems.
Some breeds are predisposed to baby teeth retention, but it can and does happen in any breed. Flat-faced dogs like Bulldogs or Shih-Tzus, and small breeds like Pomeranians have a higher incidence rate for retained puppy teeth. It is less common in larger breeds as they have bigger mouths and can accommodate the additional teeth. Remember, adult dogs have 42 adult teeth, but only 28 baby teeth so they will need much more room.
Tip: A component of retained teeth is genetic so if you worked with a breeder ask them about your puppy's parents. This will help you know if you have to be more alert for retained teeth during check-ups.
The teeth that are most commonly retained in dogs are the canines and incisors but any baby teeth can be retained.
Retained teeth is not a cosmetic issue. In addition to discomfort and pain from the misplaced tooth, this will lead to misalignment, improper jaw development, weakened enamel, an improper bite, and ultimately periodontal disease. The extra teeth make is easier for food and bacteria to be trapped more easily between them resulting in tartar buildup and eventually bone loss. Since this develops in puppies, severe pockets around the teeth that are affecting the jaw bone can even prevent the jaw bone to grow as needed.
As a general rule of thumb, yes, they should be removed. If you see an adult tooth growing alongside a puppy tooth, you should consult with your veterinarian immediately so you can decide what course of action is best for your puppy. Since this is more than a cosmetic issue, leaving these baby teeth in can cause problems down the road. A common option is to have them removed when your dog is getting spayed or neutered since they will need to be under anesthesia for both procedures. Extracting baby teeth does require anesthesia as it is painful and special care must be taken to ensure the baby tooth roots are removed in the process and no damage to the adult teeth ensue.
As your puppy grows more comfortable with you handling them during daily teeth brushings, check for any retained puppy teeth. There is no way to prevent it, so your job is to catch it as early as possible. You’ll know if you see an adult tooth growing beside it and should let your vet know immediately so they can assess if the baby tooth needs to be removed.