Chihuahuas are one of the most notorious and memeable dog breeds out there and there are lots of reasons behind that. From their fiery personalities, through their adorable tiny statures, to their haunting eyes, these Mexican dogs are especially popular among apartment dwellers because they don’t need that much space.
Some things do need a certain amount of space, however, and the teeth of Chihuahuas are a prime example of that. Despite having exceptionally tiny and narrow jaws, Chihuahuas do have quite a lot of teeth. This often makes their mouths look overcrowded as if someone has been jamming extra teeth in there for no reason.
So, let’s look into how many teeth do Chihuahuas have exactly, why, and what to do about it as an owner of one of these adorable dogs.
How Many Teeth Do Chihuahuas Have?
This may come as a surprise to some, but Chihuahuas have exactly as many teeth as any other dog breed – 42, which just so happens to also be the answer to life, the universe, and everything. Yet, why do their mouths look so overstuffed compared to other breeds?
The reason is exactly as simple as what we mentioned above – this dog’s teeth aren’t more than usual but are just more than the tiny Chihuahua jaw can handle. Ironically, that’s also why the Chihuahua bite looks so menacing – because it’s tiny and overcrowded.
But, if it ever appears as if Chihuahuas have more teeth than they should or that they have two rows of teeth like sharks do – that’s not the case. Another reason for this illusion, in addition to all their teeth just being too close to each other, is that the incisor teeth of the Chihuahua look larger than they are in other dogs and it almost feels as if Chihuahuas have two sets of canine teeth.
Again, that’s just not the case – their incisors just appear larger than they should be because their mouths are tiny. That’s also the same reason why the actual canines seem to be a bit further back than they usually are in other dogs, creating the appearance of a second row of teeth.
Do Chihuahuas lose any of their teeth?
It should also be pointed out that all of the above applies to the Chihuahua’s adult teeth, not their puppy teeth. Like other dog breeds as well as just like humans and most other mammals, Chihuahuas do have baby teeth that they lose eventually. These are called deciduous teeth.
These baby teeth first start to appear around 5-6 weeks of age and Chihuahuas are completely toothless before that. There are a total of 28 such Chihuahua baby teeth and they gradually fall off around 6-to-8 months of age and get replaced by the 42 adult teeth that stay on for a lifetime.
Also, don’t be alarmed if you notice that your Chihuahua is swallowing its baby teeth as that’s both harmless and normal, it usually happens while your dog is eating. That’s also why dog owners rarely see their pups’ baby teeth just lying around on the floor.
You may have also heard about a condition called persistent deciduous teeth in Chihuahuas. This is exactly what it sounds like – it’s what happens when the baby deciduous teeth don’t fall off when they should and start interfering with the growth of the adult teeth of the dog. If this happens and your pup still has all its baby teeth past the half-year mark, it would be a good idea to talk with your vet.
Of course, it’s not expected that your dog’s baby teeth will all just fall off at the same time – that process does happen slightly differently with each dog. However, if the deciduous teeth haven’t even started falling off by the 6th or 7th month, they may lead to some serious issues that can affect your dog’s health in the long run and necessitate a serious dental intervention down the line.
Types of Chihuahua Teeth, How They Work, and Why do They Look more numerous than they actually are?
To shed a bit more light on why Chihuahua teeth look as they do and why they are actually quite normal, let’s go over the different types of Chihuahua teeth you can find in this breed’s jaws.
First, there are the incisors
Chihuahuas have a total of 12 incisors, just like all other canines – 6 on the top and 6 on the bottom or 3 in each quadrant of the mouth. These teeth are the front-most teeth of the dog and they are also the shortest and weakest ones. Chihuahuas, like all other dogs, use their incisors for tearing meat from bone when eating, to groom themselves, as well as to communicate with other dogs and with their humans via friendly nibbling.
The next set of teeth is the most famous one – the 4 canines
These are the longest and sharpest of your dog’s teeth and there is one in each quadrant of the mouth, right next to the incisors. Canines are the teeth used to tear into flesh and cause damage. These teeth are so infamous that we call them canines in all other mammal species too.
Further back from the canines are the premolars
These are the teeth between the canines and the actual molars. Each Chihuahua has a total of 16 premolars – 4 on each side of the mouth – and those are the teeth most often used for chewing.
Lastly, there are the molars
These are the thickest and strongest teeth in a dog’s mouth, similar to wisdom teeth in people. A dog’s molars are predominantly used to crush bone and each dog breed, including Chihuahuas, has a total of 10 molars – 4 on the upper jaw (2 on each side) and 6 on the lower jaw (3 on each side). While Chihuahuas aren’t expected to crush bone when eating – they are way too small for that – you can still see them actively use their molars when playing with chew toys.
The uneven distribution of the molars is also why there are 42 teeth in a dog’s mouth (a number that isn’t divisible by 4) instead of 44. If you want a good visual representation of all this, here’s a good diagram of a dog’s mouth, courtesy to the Safari Veterinary Care Center.
Potential Chihuahua Dental Problems
We mentioned that ignoring persistent deciduous teeth in Chihuahuas can lead to dental problems. The exact type of these tooth problems can vary, especially down the line, but they stem from the fact that the adult teeth of your dog won’t grow in the correct order and placement they should because the deciduous teeth will still be in the way.
This is similar to what happens to people if their baby teeth aren’t taken out sooner rather than later – only it’s worse in Chihuahuas because of the limited space on their jaws and gums.
Even if your Chihuahua pet doesn’t get persistent deciduous teeth, however, a lot of the same subsequent problems can still occur simply because of how small a Chihuahua’s mouth is anyway. Suffice it to say that dental issues are something you should be mindful of with this type of dog. Here are the most common problems to beware of:
- Jaw fracture – an issue that can occur when the deep roots of the Chihuahua’s teeth compromise the integrity of their thin and fragile jaws.
- Periodontal disease – this is caused by bacteria overload and infections in the gums which is why it’s also called gum disease. This occurs more frequently in Chihuahuas than in other dogs precisely because their jaws are so overcrowded and it’s harder for them to clean their teeth. In essence, imagine if your teeth were packed so closely together that you weren’t able to floss them adequately.
- Cysts formed from unerupted teeth – this problem happens when a tooth has failed to grow, either because of persistent deciduous teeth or just because of general jaw overcrowding. Either way, when an adult tooth remains unerupted, it can lead to cysts. Those in turn start growing over time too and can lead to swelling, pain, and damage to both nearby teeth and the dog’s jaw.
- Missing teeth – a problem that isn’t actually “a problem” in Chihuahuas but more of a curiosity. Sometimes, likely due to their tightly-packed jaws, Chihuahuas just miss certain teeth, usually premolars or molars. Fortunately, this doesn’t impact their overall health negatively nor does it require a trip to the vet dentist.
- Malocclusion – also called underbite, this condition looks as you’d expect it to as the lower jaw is protruding in front of the upper jaw and the two don’t interlock properly. While this can look somewhat cute, it can cause pain, gum issues, and it can prevent the dog from feeding properly.
- Tooth decay and other major issues can also result both from the general overcrowding in a Chihuahua’s mouth and from poor maintenance. Not to mention that other health issues can often follow poor dental health such as kidney, liver, and other problems, as is the case with humans too.
How to Take Care of Your Chihuahua’s Teeth?
We often don’t think about canine dental care but if you don’t want to have to deal with Chihuahua teeth problems, you’d want to do some maintenance.
This typically includes removing plaque and bacteria with toothpaste and brushes, going to vet professionals for routine visits to prevent persistent deciduous teeth, using chew toys, dry kibble, and the right type of dog treat to maintain proper dental well-being, and more.
Cleaning a Chihuahua’s teeth with a toothbrush may sound silly at first but it’s exactly what your dog needs if you want all the 42 pointy teeth in its mouth to stay healthy. Remember that Chihuahuas are one of the dog breeds with the longest lifespans. This is great on its own but it also means that these dogs can spend about a decade and a half as “seniors” – a part of one’s life when proper healthcare is vital for a good quality of life.