Veterinarians see lots of different types of animals, and they see lots of different types of teeth!
Dogs and cats:
Dogs and cats have baby (deciduous) teeth and adult teeth, just like people. Puppies and kittens lose their baby teeth and get their adult teeth around 3-6 months of age. Adult dogs have 42 teeth, and adult cats have 30 teeth; all of them sharp!
When you look at a dog or cat tooth, you only see the crown of the tooth; the part that sticks out. The root of the tooth, the part you can’t see below the gums, is often twice as big as the crown. That’s a big tooth!
Dogs and cats have permanent teeth just like people, which means if they lose a tooth, it doesn’t grow back! Because of this, it’s very important that we take care of our pets’ teeth. The best way is to use a pet toothpaste and brush their teeth (don’t use human toothpaste! It’s not safe for pets!). Be careful; not every dog or cat will let you brush their teeth, and those teeth are sharp!
Dogs and cats get tartar and gingivitis just like people, and if it gets bad enough we have to take the teeth out to keep the rest of the mouth healthy.
Dogs and cats don’t get cavities the way people do, but they can get resorptive lesions. We don’t fully understand why, but some cats (and less often dogs) start to have their teeth dissolve, and the roots of the teeth turn into bone! This can be painful and leaves the teeth at risk for infection, so we remove these teeth when we see resorption.
Many of our small mammals, like guinea pigs, chinchillas, and rabbits, have continuously growing teeth. Imagine if your teeth got longer and longer, like your hair! In a healthy animal, the teeth stay the right length because they grind against each other, and a healthy diet keeps them growing properly. For some animals, however, the teeth don’t point the right direction, and they grow too long! If that’s the case, we have to trim their teeth, and get them back in shape.
Did you know you can tell the difference between rabbit teeth, guinea pig teeth, and chinchilla teeth, just by looking in their mouth? Rabbits have long crowns (the part you can see), chinchillas have very short crowns, and guinea pigs have tilted crowns; their teeth close together at an angle!
Many other small mammals like rats and gerbils only have incisors (the big teeth in front) that keep growing; the rest of their teeth stay put!
Don’t be silly; birds don’t have teeth! Birds have beaks, and they are sharp!
Most lizards and snakes have teeth that are fused (or stuck) to their jaws. Rather than a big root holding the tooth in place inside the bone, the tooth sits on top or alongside the bone, and the tooth and bone ‘glue’ together. Some, but not all, reptiles can replace these teeth as they wear out. Turtles and tortoises don’t have teeth; they have beaks similar to birds!