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Why Do My Dog's Teeth Need to Be Extracted?

Adrienne is a certified dog trainer and former veterinarian assistant who partners with some of the best veterinarians worldwide.

Do Dogs Get Teeth Extractions Because of Cavities?

So your vet said your dog needs a dental extraction. Maybe they told you upon examining your puppy's teeth, or while they were performing a routine dental cleaning on your adult dog. Either way, you probably had to make a quick decision to allow for the extractions, but you may be wondering why a dog would need extractions in the first place? There are several reasons, depending on your veterinarian's findings.

Do Dogs Get Cavities Like Humans?

In humans, cavities are the number one reason for tooth decay and extractions. Indeed, cavities start as early as childhood and will pester humans for their entire life especially if teeth aren't taken care of properly. In dogs, not so much.

There are several reasons why dogs don't get cavities as much as humans do. Of course, a primary reason is that dogs don't consume as many sugary foods as humans do. But there's more to that.

  • Turns out the bacteria in the dog's mouth are less likely to build up harmful acids,
  • the shape of a dog's teeth makes them less hospitable to bacteria, and last but not least,
  • the life span of dogs is much shorter than humans, allowing less time for bacteria to accumulate and cause damage.

However, rare doesn't mean impossible. According to an article on, a 1988 study published in the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry showed that 5.3% of dogs aged one year or older had one or more carries lesions.

You may wonder what causes cavities in the first place dogs if they do not eat sugars? Carbs are often to blame as the presence of bacteria fermenting carbohydrates on the surface of a dog's teeth is ultimately what leads to the formation of acids responsible for removing minerals from the enamel and dentin.

Some dogs are more prone to cavities than others, such as dogs with small mouths and overcrowded, tight-fitting teeth, dogs with poorly mineralized enamel, dogs with lower salivary pH, and dogs fed diets high in fermentable carbohydrates. What do dogs' cavities look like? They most likely appear on the surfaces of the dog's molar teeth and appear as discolored lesions. A picture is worth a thousand words, and Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery Specialists offer several pictures on their website.

Why Are Extractions Necessary?

While a small percentage of dogs get cavities, extractions in dogs are more often carried out because of other much more common dental conditions. This doesn't necessarily mean your dog's teeth are free of cavities, it means only that there are more common causes. So if your vet told you your dog's teeth need to be extracted, you will get to see more common causes of teeth extractions in dogs in the next paragraphs.

Why do dog teeth need to be extracted?

Why do dog teeth need to be extracted?

"My Dog's Teeth Look Fine!"

A common reaction by pet owners when told a dog's teeth need to be extracted is defensiveness. "But my dog's teeth look fine!" or "my dog doesn't have pain," is commonly heard. When you look at teeth, it's often like looking at the tip of the iceberg. Many “bad” teeth don’t really look all that bad because it’s hard to predict what’s happening underneath the gum tissue, explains veterinarian Patty Khuly.

Often, the extent of decay can only be assessed once each tooth is individually examined and radiographed. On top of that, dogs can be quite stoic in showing pain or the pain signals may not be readily recognized by dog owners because they are subtle.

5 Reasons Why Your Dog's Teeth Need to Be Extracted

Why do dogs need teeth extracted? Obviously, your vet is the best person to ask why your dog's tooth needs to be extracted, as this can vary on a case-by-case basis. But if you are simply wondering in the meantime or just curious, we will see more common causes of teeth extractions in dogs below.

1. Retained Baby Teeth

In puppies, a common reason for extractions is retained baby teeth. As the puppy grows, just as in children, his baby teeth should fall out, but sometimes things may not go as planned. A puppy may, therefore, have permanent teeth coming in at the same time as the baby teeth are there. Because the baby teeth are in the way, they may cause problems with alignment that may have long-term negative repercussions on the dog's bite, sometimes even causing malocclusions. When there are retained baby teeth, veterinary dentist Dr. Juriga applies the "two tooth rule," meaning that the retained baby teeth need to be extracted.

2. Overcrowded Teeth

Sometimes, dogs have mouths that are overcrowded with teeth. This is often seen in small dogs with small mouths. Curiously, studies show that the smaller the dog, the larger their teeth are in proportion to their mouths, compared to the teeth of larger dogs. When they are overcrowded to such an extent that no gum tissue is between them, an extraction may be recommended so as to reduce the risk for problems such as periodontal disease.

3. Misaligned Teeth

While in some dog breed standards, a misaligned bite is the norm, the issue can become more than cosmetic if it's extreme. When a misaligned bite, also known as a malocclusion, affects a dog's chewing ability and causes pain, the issue may need to be corrected. Things get particularly problematic when a tooth starts rubbing against the roof of the mouth causing pain and lesions. In such a case, the vet won't likely prescribe braces, but extraction can sometimes be helpful.

4. Tooth Fractures

If your dog has a fractured tooth, it may need an extraction if the fracture extends below the gum line and the pulp is exposed. When the pulp is exposed, it's vulnerable to mechanical and bacterial insult which will result in inflammation, not to mention intense pain. Left untreated, the exposed pulp will develop a bacterial infection, that often leads to a stabbing, throbbing pain likely similar to the dental pain humans face.

When the pulp dies, the pain may subside as dead tissue sends no pain signals, but bacteria and their toxins will continue to ooze out, now leading to a different type of chronic pain that will cause the dog to avoid chewing on. Not always do facial swellings or a draining fistula appear. How did your dog fracture his tooth? A common type of fracture is a slab fracture which occurs when your dog forcibly bites down on some hard object, causing a tooth section to come off. Treatment involves root canal therapy or extraction.

5. Periodontal Disease

Periodontal diseases are estimated to affect 80% of dogs by the age of three, so it's not surprising if your vet has recommended an extraction if your dog's teeth were found to be severely affected. Left untreated, periodontal may cause significant bone loss, soft tissue loss along with the teeth roots, and the gums to recede. This in turn often causes teeth to loosen, making tooth extraction the only option to restore oral health and prevent neighboring teeth from also being affected.

Does your dog need an extraction? If you are debating on this and concerned about removing teeth, think again. Dogs have 42 teeth in their mouths and if they just need a few extractions, the main difference they'll likely notice is no longer having those painful teeth bothering them. Many dogs become more active and happier once the problem teeth are removed. If you are planning to get your dog's teeth extracted and are worried, the best bet is to have it done by a board-certified veterinary dentist. There are not many vets specialized in dentistry, so if you are fortunate enough to have one near you, it's a good idea. You can find a veterinary dentist near you by visiting the American Veterinary Dental College website.

For Further Reading

  • Understanding How Dogs Feel Pain
    There are many misconceptions about how dogs feel pain which are potentially harmful to dogs. Learn more about dog pain perception and stress-induced analgesia.
  • What Your Dog's Gum Color and Appearance Can Tell Ab...
    What do pale gums in dogs look like and most of all, what makes a dog's gums pale? In this article we will talk about abnormal gums and why it's important to take your dog immediately to the vet.
  • Is Anesthesia Free Teeth Cleaning Good For Your Dog?
    So your dog has bad teeth but you are worried about having your dog go under anesthesia. You may have heard about Anesthesia Free Teeth Cleaning for Dogs, but is this a good option?
  • Understanding Puppy Teeth Stages
    Confused by the puppy teeth stages? No need to be! This guide will reveal the whole process clearly and will provide some interesting, little-known facts about your pup's teeth.
  • The Best Bones for Cleaning Dog's Teeth
    What dental bones are best for your dog? Your dog's teeth need the right types of bones to keep them in good shape and prevent the harmful accumulation of plaque. Let's see what vets recommend.
  • Dog Bite Conformation: Occlusions and Malocclusions
    A dog's bite is something that breeders put lots of focus on as it has a great impact in the show ring. But a good bite is more than just looks, an incorrect bite may have a impact on many levels.

This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. It is not meant to substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, or formal and individualized advice from a veterinary medical professional. Animals exhibiting signs and symptoms of distress should be seen by a veterinarian immediately.

© 2015 Adrienne Farricelli