The majority of our tooth structure is made of the hard substance called dentine. It has limited recovery capabilities after injury. The part of the tooth above the gumline is called the crown and this portion is covered in enamel, the hardest substance in the body. Below the gumline the dentine is covered in cementum. The very central part of our tooth is the living tissues and name the pulp. Each tooth is attached to the bone it sits in by the periodontal ligament which contains nerves and blood vessels.
The incisors are the small front teeth of which both dogs and cats have six upper and six lower. They are shallow rooted compared to other teeth and function as scissors for cutting, scooping and are using during grooming. They are very commonly affected by periodontal disease.
The canines are our large pointy teeth which dogs and cats have two upper and two lower. These teeth are designed for ripping and tearing flesh of bones. They also provide structure to the jaw and help keep the tongue within the mouth.
The premolars are more structural teeth designed for holding and cutting foods into smaller pieces. Dogs have four upper and lower on each side whilst cats have three upper and two lower. Molars are the grinding teeth within the mouth and have a more flattened surface. Dogs have two upper and three lower whilst our cats have just one upper and lower on each side.
The differences in tooth numbers and size within our cats and dogs reflects the fact that cats are obligate carnivores meaning they must have an animal flesh based diet. Dogs on the other hand are omnivores and can survive on a combination of plants and flesh.
Dogs and cats are both affected by dental disease of differing natures and often suffer in silence as they will usually continue to eat despite experiencing mouth pain. This is why it is so important to have regular dental assessments with your veterinarian to help identify early markers of dental disease. Intervention is better earlier than later and can help dramatically improve your pet’s quality of life, reduce pain and discomfort and make for a much happier healthy furry friend!