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What is Malocclusion of Teeth?

When a dog's teeth do not properly align, misaligned teeth (malocclusion) could result in a dog choosing only to eat certain types of food (usually bigger chunks and ditching smaller portions altogether), discomfort, the inability to close its mouth, a noticeable overbite or an abnormal jaw growth. While puppy teeth (deciduous) are commonly linked to the reason for oral complications, there are other reasons, too.

A puppy, designated as such if it’s less than six months old, will have 28 baby teeth. When it reaches adulthood, the same canine will lose all of the “milk teeth” and have 42 adult teeth. Misalignment occurs when the puppy’s baby teeth set incorrectly and when the adult teeth follow and worsen the problem due to size and a hereditary link.

Malocclusion of Teeth Average Cost

From 40 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$850

Symptoms of Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs

Sometimes called salmon jaw, two of the signs of a dog with teeth misalignment are either an overbite or a protruding lower jaw. The dog may also not be able to close its mouth or appear to always have the slightly open mouth of a fish.

Dogs with upper jaws that protrude over the lower jaw may take on the appearance of a parrot with the beak.

Other symptoms of a misaligned jaw include:

  • Food regularly falling from its mouth while chewing
  • Mixed dentition (puppy and adult teeth connected together or adult teeth not growing in)
Types

At approximately 10 months, a dog should have its full set of adult teeth. The ideal dog's teeth look like scissors once they've properly grown in, into a zigzag line.

There are several different types of malocclusion that may be diagnosed by the veterinarian; these include:

  • Overbite
  • Underbite
  • Level bite
  • Open bite
  • Anterior crossbite
  • Posterior crossbite
  • Wry mouth or bite
  • Base narrow canines

As mentioned above, a dogs bite will set at 10 months old. At this point, there is no chance that the improvement of malocclusions, such as an overbite or underbite, will happen on its own. Unbeknownst to some pet parents, there is a chance that your pets misalignment can worsen on its own. This is correlated to the fact that the permanent teeth are much larger than the baby, puppy, or “milk teeth.” When this happens your veterinarian will most likely suggest teeth extractions to make room for the incoming or already set teeth.

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Causes of Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs

For some animals, the misalignment makes no difference and treatment is not required, especially if the teeth misalignment appears to be hereditary. For other animals that have misaligned teeth due to remaining deciduous teeth that just won't fall out, this is commonly why an overbite or jaw misalignment is usually a possibility. Tartar buildup and plaque from not brushing teeth may also lead to oral diseases and possible alignment problems.

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Diagnosis of Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs

Opting out of dental radiographs (X-rays) can lead pet owners to miss approximately 75 percent of dog health issues, including oral diseases.

For teeth misalignment, the X-ray will confirm the state of teeth cleaning and possible remaining deciduous teeth. The X-ray will also be used to look for any signs of pus cavities under teeth due to oral infections, foreign objects, cysts, tumors and whether it's safe to assume that the misalignment is hereditary or not. While some cases may be more obvious than others, two-thirds of a dog's teeth are under the gums so they may not be viewable from first glance to a pet owner or even veterinarians.

Potential jaw fractures and signs of temporomandibular joints (TMJ) will also be looked at, the latter of which may also make it difficult for a dog to chew its food correctly or even open its mouth without experiencing pain.

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Treatment of Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs

For dogs that have teeth misalignment but can bite, chew and swallow without any problems, there may be no need for treatment. In dogs that experience the teeth or jaw alignment due to genetics, not much can be done to "correct" it outside of neutering or spaying the animal so future puppies will not have the same problem.

However, for dogs that experience pain, the first resolution will more often than not be to remove deciduous teeth, which are notoriously linked to oral discomfort and diseases in dogs past the age of 10 months. Veterinarians will encourage pet owners to pay special attention to the pattern of their dog's teeth during the puppy stages to avoid long-lasting issues.

If a dog is experiencing unusual behavior (heavy gulping, salivation and constantly rubbing at its own face), it's in pain or, at least, irritated. If foreign objects are the cause, those will be removed immediately once an X-ray identifies it.

Braces may be necessary to save good teeth from being extracted unnecessarily, especially if missing teeth are leading to other oral complications. The size of the braces will heavily depend on the shape and the size of the dog’s mouth and face.

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Recovery of Malocclusion of Teeth in Dogs

Dogs who wear braces may first have to get used to chewing differently and not being able to eat hard, dry dog food. The dog will also have to give up any hard chewing toys, or it may risk a tooth fracture or braces coming out of alignment. Dog braces are worn for approximately six months to one year, but in extreme cases, it may take as long as two years to correct the teeth misalignment issues.

Dogs should recover from tooth extraction within a few weeks, but four- to six-week checkups are recommended at least two to four times a year, in addition to regular cleaning to make sure the dog's teeth continue to be healthy.

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Malocclusion of Teeth Average Cost

From 40 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$850

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Malocclusion of Teeth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

Need pet health advice? Ask a vet

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Ask a Vet

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Standard Poodle

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Four Months

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Unknown severity

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0 found helpful

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Unknown severity

Has Symptoms

Tooth Protruding From Upper Gym, Bottom K9S Protruding Into Upper Gum

He has what appears to be a tooth protruding from his upper gums and seems to be pushed out to the side by his lower k9. Both lower k9s are protruding into his upper gums from below. Picture attached.

Aug. 15, 2020

Owner

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Dr. Sara O. DVM

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0 Recommendations

Hello, Your dog's teeth do not look like they are in normal positions. Good thing is that these are the baby teeth and when the adult teeth come in they may be in the right spot. Your vet can remove the tooth that is in coming out in the gums. This will help your dog's mouth feel much better.

Aug. 16, 2020

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Yanni

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Bichon Frise

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12 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

No Symptoms

My 12 week old Bichon Frise has an overbite and the vet told me that he should have his two lower baby canine teeth removed. I would like to get a second opinion. At what age should he get this surgery done? Also, the cost of the procedure will be over $600. Is this the average cost? Thank you

Aug. 13, 2018

Yanni's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

You should get another opinion especially since Yani is so young, depending on the severity there may be some improvement as he grows; any price or details of the surgery are dependent on the case but you should see another Veterinarian for an examination to get their input. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 13, 2018

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Zuzu

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mini schnauzer

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4 Years

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Mild severity

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1 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Possible Pain, Disinterest In Food

I have a mini schnauzer mix who enjoys playing with soft toys, but shes never been very interested in her hard dog food and recently I wondered if that had to do with her teeth. Both her upper and lower incisors jaunt out and it looks like she has a mix of baby and adult teeth. Could she at her age still be in pain from her teeth? And if so what should/can be done?

Feb. 24, 2018

Zuzu's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

Any long term issues with retained ‘baby’ teeth should have been picked up by your Veterinarian during annual physical examinations before vaccination etc… however, issues with teeth or the jaws may cause a malalignment of leading to pain or discomfort when eating especially if the teeth impact against the soft tissue of the gum, palate or lips. You should have Zuzu examined by your Veterinarian to be on the safe side. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Feb. 24, 2018

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Piper-Gracie

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Jack-A-Ranian

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7 Months

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Mild severity

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0 found helpful

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

None

Our Piper has a malocclusion where the canines curve inward instead of out or straight. She does have a little difficulty picking up food, but very minor. We can't see any damage to her hard palate. Our vet has referred us to a dental specialist, calling it parrot mouth. From what I've read it doesn't sound like an overbite. I know we'll have to wait for the specialist's diagnosis, but we are wondering if you've dealt with this before, and what options we are looking at. She has no baby teeth left. She's Jack/chi and Pom- and also adorable.

Feb. 2, 2018

Piper-Gracie's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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1611 Recommendations

Thank you for your email. Without seeing her mouth, it is difficult to say what may happen when you se the specialist for Piper-Gracie, but soem options generally for maloclusions are to leave the teeth alone if she is able to eat and the teeth aren't causing any damage to the other structures in her mouth, to have braces but on (some veterinarians are able to do this), or to extract any teeth that are causing problems. Once you see the specialist, you will have a better idea as to your options. I hope that all goes well for her!

Feb. 3, 2018

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Rosie

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Pomeranian

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12 Weeks

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Mild severity

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Mild severity

Has Symptoms

Underbite

Hi, I have a 12 week old Pomeranian puppy who has a slight underbite. Both her parents are show dogs with a good Scissor bite. Is my puppy going to always have this underbite? She is so beautiful and I want to show her at champion level, which requires a perfect Scissor bite. Your advice will be very appreciated. Thank you

Dec. 12, 2017

Rosie's Owner

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3320 Recommendations

At twelve weeks, it is very early days; some puppies grow into their jaws whilst others require surgical correction. If the underbite is mild, it may correct itself with time but I cannot give you any assurances that this would be the case; by seven or eight months you’ll have a better idea of how it is going to be. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Dec. 13, 2017

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Dakota

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Saint Berdoodle

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21 Weeks

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Visual

I took my 21 week old Saint Berdoodle for a vaccine this morning. My vet pointed out that one of her adult canines that is coming in looks like it may be misaligned. She recommended that we see a dental specialist. I have an appointment tomorrow, what can I expect to happen? I’m assuming X-rays are a definite..IF the tooth does happen to be coming in crooked what can or will be done with it? I appreciate any information you can give me!

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Rena

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Poodle mix maybe

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5 Years

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Fair severity

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Fair severity

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Underbite

I recently got a dog from my mil, she doesn't know much about the dog's past. Rena has an underbite and I noticed she picks through her food for the softer peices. I was wondering if I should take her to the vet and see if they need to be removed?

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Bertie

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Airedale Terrier

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8 Months

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Serious severity

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Serious severity

Has Symptoms

Malocclusion

I have an 8 month-old airedale puppy with a severe skeletal malocclusion, either caused by trauma or genetics. Her upper jaw is much shorter than her lower jaw and it's asymmetrical, causing crowding of her upper teeth. Her maxillary molars are positioned next to each other like a sandwich and she will likely need to get some of them pulled to avoid periodontal disease. She also has a missing molar that may be impacted due to the crowding. I am wondering, will pulling her crowded teeth will help her upper jaw grow at all? Is her jaw already fully developed at this age or is there a possibility of it growing more? I don't expect her upper jaw to ever reach full potential given the severity of her underbite, but I also want to do everything I can to prevent it from getting worse.

Malocclusion of Teeth Average Cost

From 40 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,500

Average Cost

$850