What Is A Level Bite On A Dog’S Teeth?

What is a Level Bite in Dogs?

A level bite, also called a scissors bite, refers to the ideal alignment of a dog’s teeth where the upper incisors slightly overlap the lower incisors when the mouth is closed (https://prckc.org/wp-content/uploads/Canine-Bite-Levels.pdf). This allows the top and bottom teeth to come together in a scissors-like fashion.

In contrast, dogs with an overshot bite have upper incisors that extend well beyond the lower incisors. Dogs with an undershot bite have lower incisors that extend beyond the upper incisors.

The level bite is considered the standard for optimal bite alignment in dogs. It allows for maximum chewing efficiency while minimizing excessive wear on the teeth. The upper and lower incisors should meet edge-to-edge without causing trauma to oral tissues when the mouth is closed.

Maintaining proper bite alignment is important for a dog’s health and quality of life. Significant malocclusions can lead to problems with eating, grooming, and overall jaw function.

Causes of a Level Bite

There are several potential causes for a dog developing a level bite.

Genetics play a major role in the formation of bite alignment. Certain breeds are prone to having level bites based on their standards and breeding lineage. For example, Boxers and Great Danes often naturally have level bites according to their breed standards (Source).

During a dog’s development, occasionally their jaw and teeth do not align properly, resulting in a level bite instead of the more typical scissors bite. The maxilla (upper jaw) and mandible (lower jaw) bones may grow at uneven rates or the tooth roots may develop slightly off, preventing the normal overlap in incisors (Source).

Overall, genetics and developmental factors during growth play the biggest roles in producing a level bite versus the standard scissors bite in dogs.

Effects of a Level Bite

A level bite allows a dog to properly grasp, chew, and tear food as nature intended. This facilitates proper jaw development and helps keep teeth clean. According to the Pet Helpful article “Dog Bite Conformation: Occlusions and Malocclusions,” a level bite “reduces the risk of fracture of incisors” and helps prevent dental disease.

With a level bite, a dog’s upper and lower incisors meet edge-to-edge. This enables the molars to come together correctly for chewing. As the Pet Helpful article explains, “The molars in the upper and lower jaws should interdigitate with each other – fit between each other so chewing can occur effectively.”

Because a level bite allows dogs to effectively use their teeth for grasping and chewing, it helps prevent periodontal disease. As the Pet Helpful article says, “Poor occlusion affects a dog’s ability to keep its teeth clean through chewing and grasping.” With proper dental alignment from a level bite, it’s easier for dogs to keep their own teeth clean.

In summary, the major effects of a proper level bite include:
– Proper chewing and grasping of food

– Reduced risk of dental fractures and periodontal disease
– Better jaw development
– Improved ability to self-clean teeth

Diagnosing a Level Bite

A veterinarian will diagnose a level bite in dogs through a physical examination of the dog’s mouth and teeth. They will visually inspect the alignment and placement of the teeth in the upper and lower jaws to determine if there is an overbite, underbite or proper alignment (level bite).

The vet will observe where the upper incisors make contact with the lower incisors when the mouth is closed to evaluate the bite. In a level or normal bite, the upper incisors should meet edge-to-edge with the lower incisors. An overbite is when the lower incisors are positioned behind the upper incisors and do not make contact. An underbite is when the lower incisors extend past the upper incisors.

In some cases, the vet may take bite impressions of the teeth to get a precise model for analysis. This can help determine the exact misalignment and severity of the condition. Bite impressions involve placing dental impression material into the dog’s mouth to create a mold of the teeth and jaws. This mold is then used to make a plaster replica of the bite that the vet can evaluate in detail. (source).

Treatment for Misaligned Bites

There are several treatment options for dogs with misaligned bites, depending on the severity and cause of the condition. Some common treatments include:

Extraction of Deciduous Teeth

If a puppy tooth is preventing the permanent tooth from erupting properly, the vet may recommend extracting the deciduous tooth. This can allow the permanent tooth to erupt into better alignment (VCAA).


Custom orthodontic appliances like braces, springs, or spacers may be fitted to gradually move the teeth into better alignment over weeks or months. This can correct both overshot and undershot bites. Orthodontics requires frequent veterinary visits for adjustments (WellPets).

Tooth Filing

The vet may file down overgrown or misaligned teeth to reshape them and create a better bite. This quick procedure is done under anesthesia and provides immediate improvement. However, it may need to be repeated as the tooth continues growing (WellPets).

Caring for a Dog with a Level Bite

Dogs with a level bite require some special care to keep their teeth and jaws aligned properly. Here are some tips for caring for a dog with this type of bite:

Regular dental cleanings are important for dogs with a level bite. Tartar and plaque buildup can exacerbate misalignment problems. Have your vet perform dental cleanings at least annually to keep the teeth and gums healthy.

Provide proper chew toys. Rubber chew toys can help scrape away tartar while avoiding damage. Avoid hard chews that could crack teeth or bones that could fragment. Supervise chewing to prevent choking.

Monitor your dog’s bite alignment. Look for signs like difficulty eating or excessive teeth wear. Schedule regular vet dental exams to identify any worsening of the condition early.

Consider an orthodontic appliance if misalignment gets severe. Braces can realign the jaw in some cases under veterinary supervision. This may be needed if problems like uneven wear or injury occur.

Get prompt treatment for mouth injuries or tooth fractures. Level bites put more pressure on the teeth, so seek veterinary care right away if any damage occurs.

A healthy diet is important to support dental health. Feed a complete and balanced dog food and avoid excess sugars that can advance dental disease.

With attentive home care and veterinary oversight, dogs with a level bite can live happy and healthy lives.

Risks of an Overshot or Undershot Bite

If left untreated, malocclusion or misaligned bites can lead to serious health issues in dogs.

The most immediate risk is damage to the teeth and gums. When the top and bottom teeth do not align properly, abnormal forces are placed on the teeth. This can cause teeth to wear down unevenly or chip and fracture over time. The abnormal grinding and pressure on the teeth can also lead to painful trauma of the gums and accelerated periodontal disease 1.

As periodontal disease progresses, it can destroy the tissues and bone that support the teeth. This leads to loose teeth, infections, tooth loss, and dental pain. An overshot or undershot bite makes a dog’s teeth much more prone to these issues if not corrected 2.

Additionally, a misaligned bite can make it difficult and painful for a dog to pick up food and chew properly. This may lead to discomfort when eating, difficulty thriving, and malnutrition. An improper bite also increases the chances of trauma and damage to the roof of the mouth 3.

Left unaddressed, these issues can significantly impact a dog’s health and quality of life. That’s why it’s important to have a dog evaluated and treated for bite abnormalities as soon as they are noticed.

Breeds Prone to Misaligned Bites

Certain dog breeds are more prone to developing misaligned bites due to their facial structure and genetics. Brachycephalic breeds, or short-nosed breeds, often have crowded teeth due to their shortened muzzles. Common brachycephalic breeds prone to malocclusions include Boxers, Boston Terriers, Bulldogs, Cavalier King Charles Spaniels, Chihuahuas, French Bulldogs, Lhasa Apsos, Pekingese, Pugs, Shih Tzus, and Pomeranians.

Toy breeds like Chihuahuas and Pomeranians have very small mouths that cannot accommodate all of their teeth, increasing their risk for malocclusions. Overcrowding puts abnormal pressure on the teeth and jaws, leading to misalignments.

Bulldogs are especially prone due to their extreme brachycephalism and highly compressed jaw structure. Up to 80% of Bulldogs have some degree of malocclusion that requires veterinary intervention.1 The wrinkles on their face can also cause teeth to grow in crooked directions.

While any dog can develop a misaligned bite, owners of the high-risk breeds above should monitor their dog’s teeth closely. Early intervention may help prevent severe malocclusion issues.

Preventing Bite Problems

There are several ways dog owners can help prevent bite problems in their pets, including through selective breeding, proper nutrition, and providing appropriate chew toys.

Selective breeding can reduce the likelihood of problematic biting behaviors. Responsible breeders aim to breed dogs with sound temperaments and an inhibition towards biting. Avoiding perpetuating aggressive traits through breeding is an important prevention method.

Providing proper nutrition is also key. Making sure the dog receives adequate protein and nutrients can curb irritability and food aggression that may lead to biting. Consult your veterinarian to ensure your dog’s unique dietary needs are met.

Finally, giving dogs appropriate outlets for chewing is vital. Offering an array of durable, interesting chew toys helps satisfy dogs’ natural urge to chew and prevents them from chewing destructively. Rotate toys to keep your dog engaged and supervised during play. Hard rubber or nylon toys often work well.

With mindful breeding, proper nutrition, and plenty of chew toys, owners can curb problematic biting behaviors in dogs.

When to See a Vet

It’s important to get your dog’s bite evaluated by a veterinarian if you notice any changes or issues with their bite alignment. Signs that it’s time to see a vet include:

  • If your puppy’s bite seems to be changing from a normal alignment to an overshot or undershot alignment as adult teeth come in
  • If your adult dog’s bite alignment seems to shift suddenly
  • Any signs of periodontal disease or dental issues like red or inflamed gums, tooth fractures, or tooth loss
  • Difficulty eating or signs of discomfort when chewing
  • Reluctance to eat hard kibble or chew toys

According to the experts at VCA Hospitals, “Any malocclusion resulting in trauma to oral tissues, interference with chewing/biting, or craniofacial abnormalities should be evaluated and treated by a veterinarian.”

It’s best to have your vet examine your dog’s bite alignment during their regular dental checkups. That way, any changes can be identified early before they start causing bigger problems. Don’t wait until your dog shows signs of pain or trouble eating. Be proactive about monitoring their dental health.

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