Puppies are born without teeth and their baby teeth start growing about 4 weeks.

You may not see any of these puppy teeth fall out, which they start doing about 3- 4 months, and by then you will be very happy for your puppy to be losing them as these milk teeth are razor sharp and often inflict unintentional damage on you. 

A good guide to when your puppy is teething is that he will start chewing more.  Wood seems to be favourite i.e. table and chair legs and we have known puppies to start on the walls.  However it is sensible to give him something safe to chew on and something that will not send your blood pressure sky high when he is damaging  furniture or chewing cables or remote controls.  Give him his own toys to chew including raggy pulls, nylon bones and kongs filled with food.  Some people soak rags in salt free soups and raw carrots are great fun.  You may find that he wants to chew sticks or stones when he is in the garden and it is best that he doesn’t, just in case he gets a splinter in his mouth or swallows a stone. There is the perennial debate about giving dogs bones and if you decide to give bones then make sure they are not cooked and or chicken bones as these splinter too easily.  The big knuckle end of a beef bone is best and will keep a puppy occupied for ages.

The change from milk to adult teeth usually happens without any problems, apart from a little bleeding of the gums, but if you are concerned consult your vet.   Quite often you will not even find a tooth that has come out and the first sign will be a gap or two, usually at the front of the mouth.  The pre molars and molars at the side and back of this mouth take longer to grow.

Sometimes a puppy will retain a milk tooth, usually a canine, which is one of the two “fangs” and it may be necessary to have it removed by the vet under anaesthetic.  Don’t be tempted to remove it yourself because if you break off the root it will cause pain and possible infection.  If the new tooth is coming through next to the retained tooth it is a good idea to speak to your vet just to check that the new tooth is not being displaced by the milk tooth.

Puppies have 28 teeth but an adult will have 42 and an Irish Setter should have a scissor bite. This means that his top teeth should fit snugly in front of the bottom ones.  Sometimes a setter will have a level bite, which is when both sets of teeth are level and sometimes the bottom teeth sit in front of the top teeth.  If either of the last two happen let your breeder know. 

Below is a setter with a perfect bite and really clean teeth.

perfect bite

Looking after adult teeth is important and your vet should check them with his annual MOT, if not more often than that.  It is useful to get your vet or veterinary nurse to show you how to look after your dogs teeth and how to clean them properly.  Your vet can probably supply you with toothpaste and brush or “finger brush”.  Don’t use human toothpaste as it is not designed for dogs and dog toothpaste is usually chicken or beef flavoured.

If you allow a build up of tartar, not only will your dog’s teeth become discoloured but his breath will probably smell as well and it can lead to dental disease such as gingivitis or diseased teeth, which may need treatment under anaesthetic.  If left untreated infection can get into the bloodstream and cause further problems, so regular dental care is important.