Do Dogs Teeth Get Crooked As They Age?

Do Dogs’ Teeth Shift Out of Alignment as They Age?

As dogs grow older, their teeth can undergo noticeable changes. Owners may spot yellowing, plaque build-up, and even crooked or misaligned teeth in senior canines. But when do these dental issues tend to crop up, and why?

In this article, we’ll explore whether dog teeth actually shift and become crooked with age. We’ll look at the causes and risks of crooked teeth in dogs. You’ll also learn how to spot the signs of misaligned teeth, and what treatment options exist for straightening a dog’s smile.

Understanding the impacts of aging on your dog’s teeth can help you provide the best dental care. Continue reading for an in-depth look at how dogs’ teeth change over time.

Anatomy of Dog Teeth

Dogs have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Each type serves a different purpose.

Incisors are the small front teeth used for biting and gnawing. Dogs have six incisors on the top and six on the bottom. Behind the incisors are the long, pointed canine teeth. Dogs use these for gripping and tearing food. They have four canines on the top and four on the bottom. After the canines are sixteen premolars used for chewing and grinding food. The molars at the rear are broad and flat for further grinding food.

Puppies have 28 temporary “milk” teeth that start coming in around 3-4 weeks of age. By about 6 months, these milk teeth fall out as the stronger permanent teeth replace them. Adult dogs have 42 permanent teeth. The permanent teeth continue to develop over the first several months as the roots anchor into the gums and jaw.

As dogs age, their teeth may wear down, chip or fracture. The enamel protective outer layer can also erode from exposure to bacteria, plaque, and tartar. Regular dental care helps minimize these age-related changes.

Do Dog Teeth Shift as They Age?

Yes, it is common for dog teeth to shift and become crooked as a dog ages. According to Crossroads Animal Hospital, a dog’s teeth may begin to show signs of wear between 1-2 years old as adult teeth grow in to replace puppy teeth. As dogs continue to age, their teeth are subjected to wear and tear from chewing and other use.

Embark Veterinary notes that while puppy teeth can be a good indicator of age, adult dog teeth become less reliable for determining age as the dog matures. This is because things like periodontal disease, tooth fractures, and overall wear and tear take their toll over time.

According to WikiHow, examining an adult dog’s teeth can only provide a very rough estimate of age. This is because individual factors like diet, chewing habits, and genetics can cause a dog’s teeth to show more or less wear. For example, a 5 year old dog on a hard kibble diet may exhibit more tooth wear than a 7 year old dog on a soft food diet.

Overall, veterinary experts agree thatsignificant tooth wear, fractures, and shifting are common as dogs age. Some shifting is natural, but excessive shifting or crowding can cause problems and should be monitored.

Causes of Crooked Teeth in Dogs

There are several potential causes of crooked teeth in dogs:

Periodontal disease can cause teeth to shift and become misaligned over time. As plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth, it can cause inflammation and bone loss around the roots. This destroys the tissues anchoring the teeth in place, allowing them to drift out of alignment (VCA Hospitals).

Injuries to the mouth or teeth can also lead to malocclusion. Trauma from a hit or fall can fracture teeth or jar them out of place. This damage can prevent proper teeth alignment as permanent adult teeth erupt (WagWalking).

Genetics play a role in some dogs being predisposed to crooked teeth. Certain breeds, like Bulldogs, Boxers, and Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, are more prone to bite abnormalities and crowded, misaligned teeth.

Other times, the underlying cause is an abnormal bite (overbite or underbite). If the upper and lower jaws do not properly meet, this can cause teeth to hit at an incorrect angle. The resulting pressure may gradually shift teeth out of place over time.

Signs of Crooked Teeth in Dogs

There are several noticeable signs that may indicate your dog has crooked or misaligned teeth:

Difficulty eating – Crooked teeth can make it painful and difficult for dogs to pick up and chew food. You may notice your dog dropping food, reluctance to eat hard kibble, or favoring one side of their mouth when chewing. This can lead to weight loss if your dog has trouble obtaining adequate nutrition (Source).

Drooling – Excessive drooling or dribbling can occur if your dog has an overbite or underbite that makes it hard to keep their mouth closed. Crooked teeth may also irritate your dog’s gums and cause increased saliva production (Source).

Bad breath – Misaligned teeth are more prone to tartar buildup and enable bacteria growth, leading to halitosis or bad breath in dogs. Gingivitis and receding gums caused by crooked teeth also contribute to bad breath (Source).

Swollen gums – The abnormal bite and excessive forces exerted by misaligned teeth can cause gum irritation, inflammation and swelling. Your dog’s gums may appear red, swollen and bleed easily (Source).

Risks of Crooked Teeth

Crooked teeth in dogs can lead to some serious health issues if left untreated, including:

Gum Disease

Crooked teeth can make it difficult for dogs to properly chew and clean their teeth. Food and plaque can more easily become trapped between misaligned teeth or abnormally positioned teeth. This leads to inflammation and bacterial growth, resulting in gum disease (VCA).

Tooth Loss

Severely misaligned teeth may become loose or damaged over time. The abnormal positioning can lead to teeth fracturing or falling out (WagWalking).


Bacteria and plaque buildup between crooked teeth can lead to painful tooth root or gum infections. Left untreated, infections may spread to other areas of the mouth or body (PetMD).


Crooked teeth can rub up against each other abnormally, leading to damage of the enamel. Exposed dentin underneath is highly sensitive and can cause significant discomfort (VCA). Misaligned teeth may also cause pain when chewing.

Diagnosing Crooked Teeth

If you suspect your dog may have crooked teeth, the first step is to have your veterinarian perform a thorough oral exam. They will visually inspect your dog’s mouth, looking for misaligned teeth, abnormal wear, or other problems.

Your vet may also want to take dental x-rays. This allows them to see below the gumline and get a complete picture of what’s going on inside your dog’s mouth. X-rays can reveal issues like impacted or retained baby teeth, root problems, bone loss, or other abnormalities that could be causing the crooked teeth.

According to PetMD, “X-rays are essential for determining the extent of malocclusion and presence of retained deciduous teeth or supernumerary teeth.” [1] They provide important diagnostic information to determine the right treatment.

With a combination of a physical exam and dental x-rays, your veterinarian should be able to diagnose the cause and severity of your dog’s crooked teeth.

Treatment Options

There are several treatment options for crooked teeth in dogs depending on the severity and underlying cause:

Teeth cleaning – A professional dental cleaning can remove tartar and plaque that may be contributing to crooked teeth. Though cleaning alone won’t straighten teeth, it can help improve overall dental health.

Tooth extraction – Extracting severely misaligned or damaged teeth is sometimes necessary, according to VCA Hospitals ( This may relieve pain and prevent further dental problems.

Orthodontics – Veterinary orthodontics like braces or retainers can align crooked teeth and correct malocclusion, according to the American Veterinary Dental College ( This requires specialized equipment and training.

Antibiotics – Antibiotics may be prescribed if misaligned teeth become infected. Controlling infection and inflammation is important for managing dental disease.

Preventing Crooked Teeth

There are several things dog owners can do to help prevent crooked teeth in their pets:

Regular dental cleanings. Getting your dog’s teeth professionally cleaned on a regular basis can help prevent plaque buildup, tartar, and gum disease, which can put pressure on teeth and cause them to shift over time. Vets usually recommend annual cleanings starting around age 2-3.

Proper home care. Brushing your dog’s teeth at home 2-3 times per week can also keep their teeth clean between professional cleanings. Use a soft brush and toothpaste formulated specifically for dogs. Be gentle as you brush the outer surfaces of the teeth.[1]

Chew toys. Giving your dog appropriate chew toys helps keep their teeth clean while satisfying their natural urge to chew. Hard rubber toys and treats are ideal for scraping off soft tartar. Supervise your dog with chews to prevent choking or digestive issues.

Diet. Choose high-quality dog food formulated to support dental health. Kibble that is larger, harder, and crunchy can also help clean teeth as your dog chews. Avoid soft, moist foods that can get stuck in teeth.

With diligent home care and professional dental cleanings, many dogs can maintain properly aligned teeth well into their senior years.


In summary, dog teeth can become crooked and misaligned as they age for a variety of reasons. The main causes are periodontal disease, injuries or trauma to the mouth, and genetics. Signs of crooked teeth in dogs include difficulty eating, mouth pain, bad breath, and problems with the gums and cheek tissue. Crooked teeth can lead to tooth loss, infections, and other oral health issues if left untreated.

To answer the original question, yes – dogs’ teeth can and do commonly shift and develop malocclusions as they age. This is a natural part of the aging process for many dogs. However, crooked teeth are preventable and treatable through regular veterinary dental cleanings, monitoring for injuries, providing safe chew toys, and feeding kibble or dental diet foods. With proper prevention and early treatment, owners can help keep their dog’s teeth straight and healthy for as long as possible.

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