Deciduous teeth are the scientific name for baby teeth. Like humans, puppies and kittens are born without teeth, and over the next weeks of life, the baby teeth erupt. At around four and a half months, those baby teeth fall out, and the adult teeth make their appearance. This generally happens without the owner ever noticing. Most often the deciduous teeth are simply swallowed, but occasionally you may see red or swollen gums, blood on a chew toy or even sometimes even the tooth. The good thing is, unlike human children, teething does not result in owners having sleepless nights.
By the time of the spay or neuter of your pet, generally these deciduous teeth are gone, and a full set of adult teeth are present. Occasionally, this is not the case. The remaining baby teeth are referred to as retained deciduous teeth. The rule is that there should never be a baby and an adult of the same tooth in the mouth at the same time. If there are retained deciduous teeth at the time of surgery, it is best to have them removed. This means one anesthetic, and although there is a cost associated with the removal of the teeth, it is much less expensive than booking a completely separate procedure.
If deciduous teeth remain in the mouth, they can affect how the adult teeth develop, resulting in malocclusion (imperfect position of the teeth when the mouth is closed). They also tend to tight up against an adult tooth and provide a spot where tartar can collect leading to future periodontal disease and damage to the adult tooth. Future dental procedures and adult tooth loss are often the results. It is highly recommended to have an assessment done of the teeth at the same time as pre-anesthetic blood work or close to the surgery date to ensure accurate estimates are provided.
This is a common procedure done frequently with smaller dogs such as Yorkies, Chihuahuas, Poodles and brachycephalic type dogs (short-nosed dogs such as French Bulldogs, Bulldogs, Pugs for example). Dental x-rays are performed of the deciduous tooth prior to and after removal to ensure the entire root has been removed, therefore minimizing potential problems associated with retained root tips and damage to the existing adult tooth.
Written by: Effie Bruce, RVT