3 common problems with deciduous teeth that need treatment

Persistent deciduous teeth, fractured deciduous teeth and deciduous teeth causing traumatic malocclusion are all indications for the deciduous teeth to be removed to relieve pain and infection in puppies and kittens.

Persistent deciduous teeth

When permanent incisors, canines and premolars are erupting, deciduous teeth should exfoliate. If deciduous teeth do not exfoliate, we refer to the problem as to persistent deciduous teeth, which is especially common in small breeds of dogs. Persistent deciduous teeth will interfere with the eruption of permanent teeth (permanent teeth have no space to erupt), which will likely lead to malocclusion. In addition, since deciduous teeth are very close to the permanent teeth, this crowding will result in an increased accumulation of plaque and calculus, leading to gingivitis and periodontitis. It is always advised to extract persistent deciduous teeth as soon as possible.

Deciduous teeth are comparatively as large as permanent teeth (about 1/3 of the tooth is represented by the crown of the tooth and 2/3 by the root), but they have thinner roots and are more fragile due to the larger dental pulp. Therefore, surgical (open) extraction of deciduous teeth, especially in the case of canine teeth (most commonly), and especially if the dental X-ray shows that the roots are still entirely present, is recommended.

Although it is not confirmed that eruption problems have a genetic background, breeding of such animals is discouraged, especially if similar problems recur in the line.

Trauma to deciduous teeth

Dental trauma can happen at any age of the animal and fractures of deciduous teeth are quite common. If trauma to the deciduous tooth results in pulp exposure or tooth death, such a tooth should be removed as soon as possible to prevent infection and inflammation of the dental pulp, which causes pain and could lead to irreparable damage to the permanent teeth, which lie in the immediate vicinity of the root(s) of the damaged deciduous tooth. Untreated, the infection may eventually extend to the surrounding tissues. Fractured deciduous teeth in animals are not endodontically treated, but removed (extracted). If deciduous teeth are affected by periodontal trauma, they are also removed.

As mentioned above, deciduous teeth appear to be small, but extraction is demanding, especially because of the possibility to damage the developing permanent tooth during the extraction and/or fracture of the deciduous tooth during extraction. Therefore surgical extraction is recommended and the extraction procedure needs to be monitored with dental X-rays.


Normal occlusion in puppies and kittens is the same as in adult dogs and cats. Deciduous teeth/occlusion can be assessed at the age of about 2 months (or) when all deciduous teeth are erupted. If malocclusion is noted and causes trauma and pain and/or prevents the normal growth of the jaw or even closing of the mouth, extraction of the deciduous teeth that cause problem is needed. Extraction (interceptive orthodontics) should be performed as soon as possible, and possible complications of such treatment should be discussed with the client.

Often, the same occlusion problems as the animal had with deciduous teeth occur also with permanent teeth and require another treatment. If the cause of the malocclusion is an abnormal growth of the jaws (skeletal malocclusion), it is considered to be hereditary (although it is difficult to prove this for an individual animal), therefore, breeding of such animals is discouraged. If there is a dental malocclusion (only selected teeth are in malocclusion, but the jaws are otherwise normal), the condition may or may not be hereditary. In such cases breeding of the animals is also discouraged or the offspring should be carefully monitored for the malocclusion.

Occlusion can be only fully evaluated once all of the permanent teeth are erupted and the most of the jaw growth is completed, that is, in principle, after the age of 6 months.

If you have noted any problems with your animal, please consult your veterinarian.

Selected references
1. Gracis M (2018). Dental anatomy and physiology. In: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dentistry and Oral Surgery, 4th ed. AM Reiter, M Gracis, Eds. BSAVA, Quedgeley, pp. 6-32.
2. Legendre L, Reiter AM (2018). Management of dental, oral and maxillofacial developmental disorders. In: BSAVA Manual of Canine and Feline Dentistry and Oral Surgery, 4th ed. AM Reiter, M Gracis, Eds. BSAVA, Quedgeley, pp. 245-278.