Deciduous teeth or baby teeth are present in both dogs and cats. Normally, starting at approximately 3 months of age, they begin to fall out and are replaced with larger permanent teeth by the time they are 6 months of age. In certain small breeds, such as the Yorkshire Terrier, Toy and Miniature Poodle, Maltese and others for example, the deciduous teeth will remain in the mouth long after the permanent has erupted. These retained teeth will result in considerable decay to form around the adjacent permanent tooth as well as to cause a displacement of the permanent tooth.
The most common teeth to be retained in the mouth are the canines. If many teeth are retained then the condition is called “shark teeth” due to the similar appearance in the shark. As the permanent tooth moves toward the surface the deciduous tooth undergoes a resorption of its root, a breaking of the soft tissue attachments and an expulsion from the mouth. The tooth is considered retained when both the deciduous and the point of the permanent tooth is present at the same time.
The best course of action is to remove the deciduous tooth as soon as possible to avoid an abnormal displacement of the permanent tooth. If displacement occurs and it is not severe a corrective orthodontic device can be used to move the tooth into its proper location. This is important in order to maintain the normal self cleaning mechanisms in the mouth that are responsible for controlling plaque. If the deciduous teeth remain after the permanent tooth has completely erupted, food, hair and other debris will become trapped between the teeth as well as in the gum tissues resulting in significant periodontal disease.