If you own a veterinary practice, you know the importance of oral health in your canine patients. Conducting a dog dental exam is a crucial step in analyzing a dog’s health thoroughly. And one stage of the process is creating a dental chart.

Read on to learn more about the dog dental chart process.

What Is Dog Dental Charting?

Dog dental charting is the process of recording any abnormalities in a patient’s teeth during an oral examination. Dental charts include the following information at a minimum:

  • Dental anatomy
  • Patient information
  • Presenting complaint
  • Dental history
  • X-ray interpretation
  • Treatment
  • Care recommendations

Veterinarians should complete the dog dental chart while performing the oral examination to ensure the accuracy and comprehensiveness of the chart. The standard way to create a chart is for the vet to call out their findings during the examination while a veterinary nurse writes them in the chart.

Vets can complete a paper dental chart for each dog or use a virtual template. Virtual charting can streamline the process and allow for more accuracy in the recording.

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Dog Teeth Information: Understanding the Make-Up

Dog teeth look different from human teeth, as they must perform different tasks to aid canine survival. Whether you’re a dog owner or a veterinarian, understanding the make-up of a dog’s teeth can help you recognize abnormalities as they arise.

Almost every healthy adult dog has 42 teeth: 20 on the upper jaw and 22 on the lower jaw. Meanwhile, puppies typically have 28 teeth: 14 on the top and 14 on the bottom.

These puppy teeth, known as milk teeth, fall out gradually during the first few months of a puppy’s life. After each baby tooth falls out, a permanent tooth replaces it. As a result, most puppies have all of their adult teeth by six months of age.

What Are the 4 Types of Dog Teeth?

According to Purina Dentalife, dogs have four different types of teeth:

  1. Incisors: Incisors are the small teeth located at the front of a canine’s mouth. These teeth are sharp and pointed, allowing dogs to scrape meat from bones. Dogs can also use incisors to groom themselves and remove fleas from their coats.
  2. Canines: Canines are the longer teeth at the front of a dog’s mouth. These teeth fall behind the incisors on a dog dental chart. They can help dogs scrape meat from bones and lock on to prey or toys. Most dogs have four canines: two on top and two on the bottom.
  3. Premolars: Premolars are sharp teeth located behind the canines. These teeth primarily help dogs chew tough, meaty foods. Dogs usually have eight premolars on the top and eight on the bottom.
  4. Molars: Molars are large teeth at the back of a dog’s mouth. Dogs use these teeth to crunch hard foods like kibble or dog cookies.

How Are Teeth Numbered In Dogs?

In veterinary dentistry, vets assign numbers to every canine tooth within a dental chart. This process allows dentists to refer to specific teeth quickly and precisely during charting.

While vets can use several methods to number the teeth, the modified triadan system is the most common. With this system, each tooth receives a three-digit number, as follows:

First number: Identifies the quadrant

Second and third number: Identify the tooth’s location from front to back

Maxillary refers to the upper jaw, while mandibular refers to the lower jaw. The quadrant numbers in this system are:

100: Right maxillary
200: Left maxillary
300: Left mandibular
400: Right mandibular

Vets can use a similar process to number each deciduous tooth in puppies, using the numbers 500 through 800 respectively.

The second and third numbers in this numbering system are a little trickier to remember. These numbers can vary depending on the dog species. However, they typically follow this guide:

Always incisors: 01, 02, and 03
Always canine: 04
Always premolars: 05,06,07,08
Always molars: 09, 10, 11

More on Tooth numbering:  Example- What Tooth is 208 on a Dog?

Now that we know the numbering system in canine dental charting, we can begin to match numbers with specific teeth in a dog’s mouth.

For instance, 401 could refer to the lower right incisor. One hundred ten could indicate the upper right molar. Two hundred eight could indicate the upper left premolar.

Professionals in veterinary dentistry learn this numbering system like the back of their hands, allowing them to refer to canine teeth quickly during a dental cleaning, dental procedure, or routine examination. If you’re a pet owner, you can also use this numbering system to tell your veterinarian about specific teeth in your dog’s mouth that may be expersiencing issues.

Want a print-friendly poster of a Dog Dental Chart for Your Veterinary office?  Download Free Dog Dental Chart

Five Common Signs of Dental Problems in Dogs

Dental charting is an essential step in identifying potential problems in dog teeth. Dogs often experience periodontal disease and dental disease. However, a range of other dental problems are also common in dogs, such as:

  • Plaque or tartar build-up
  • An oral cavity
  • A pulp cavity
  • A fractured tooth
  • Swollen gingival margin
  • Infected gingival sulcus
  • Tooth resorption

Initially, vets will look for a few common signs that could indicate a problem. According to the American Veterinary Dental College, here are five signs vets watch out for:

  1. Bad breath: Bad breath is a common initial sign of periodontal disease and other gum-related diseases in dogs. If you’re a pet owner, you should watch out for changes in your dog’s breath scent, as this could indicate a problem requiring dental care.
  2. Excessive drooling: Excessive drooling in dogs can result from a range of dental issues, such as gum inflammation, tooth decay, oral tumors, or tartar building.
  3. Swollen or bleeding gums: Red, inflamed, or swollen gums are a common symptom of canine gum disease.
  4. Increased plaque build-up: Plaque is a substance that forms on dogs’ teeth after eating. During a routine cleaning, vets use a dental scaler to scrape the plaque from the tooth surface. While some plaque is normal, excessive plaque build-up can indicate a problem.
  5. Difficulty chewing: Excessive dog chewing could indicate that a dog has trouble using its teeth effectively. If a dog experiences tooth or gum pain, it may need to chew more slowly to minimize discomfort.

Any changes in a dog’s mouth or chewing habits can signify underlying problems. Taking dogs to the vet as soon as these problems become evident is essential to addressing them quickly.

If you own a veterinary practice, using a standardized dog dental chart process is just as important as having the right client communication software. Schedule a demo with Weave today to begin streamlining and automating your veterinary marketing processes.