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Dogs use their mouths for a lot of things - to eat, drink, lick and give us lots of puppy kisses. But there's more to their mouths than meets the eye. Here are some interesting facts about dog mouths - particularly their saliva and teeth.
Just like people have baby teeth that fall out and get replaced by adult teeth, dogs go through something similar. However, their puppy teeth fall out over a few weeks, rather than years. The root is then naturally absorbed into the gums and their adult dog teeth can come in.
Puppies have 28 teeth that are then replaced by 42 adult teeth. This means that dogs have more teeth than humans, who typically have 32.
Dog teeth may be chemically similar to humans, but they differ in the size and shape. Human teeth are meant to grind against one another to chew food, but dog teeth aren't designed this way. A dog's most prominent teeth are long, pointy canines used for grasping, pulling, tearing and lifting. They do have some molars, but they provide more of a slicing action than a smashing one.
Human digestion begins in the mouth, thanks to the digestive enzymes in our saliva. But dog saliva doesn't play the same role. Their saliva merely helps move food down the esophagus into the stomach, where the digestive process starts. This means that dogs don't need to chew their food to begin the digestive process, as their intestines get the job done on their own.
The roots of dog teeth are structured differently from humans. Dogs have two lower molars, each of which have three roots, and three upper molars that each have two roots. Also, dog teeth roots are really long - the part visible is just one-third of the entire tooth (and just one-fourth for incisor teeth).
Dog saliva contains chemicals that are antibacterial. This is why you may see your dog licking a wound to promote cleaning and healing. That being said, it's a good idea to go to the vet if your dog does have a wound, as licking won't be able to cure all infections.
Although dog saliva contains antibacterial properties, your dog can still transfer bacteria to you through "kisses" and licks. Research has shown that dogs can transfer bacteria that can affect the periodontium (the tissue that surrounds and supports the teeth in the bones). However, it's pretty unlikely that their saliva would be a direct cause of infection.
Most people think that dog fur and dander are the only causes of allergies in humans. And although they are two common reasons for allergic reactions, dog saliva (particularly the proteins in it) has also been shown to be a factor. Research has shown that there are at least 12 different proteins in dog saliva that can cause allergic reactions in humans. In fact, dog saliva may be a greater factor in causing allergies than dander.
There are a few reasons why cavities are extremely rare in dogs. Two reasons have to do with the bacteria in a dog's mouth and their diet. Cavities are usually caused by certain bacteria on our teeth that metabolize sugars into acid. But dogs have different bacteria in their mouth and the cavity-causing ones are rarely present. Furthermore, dog diets don't consist of sugar. If a dog does get cavities, it's likely from too many sweeter treats like sweet potatoes or bananas.
One other reason that dogs rarely get cavities is because of their saliva. This is because dog saliva is more alkaline than human saliva. Their PH level is 7.5 to 8, compared to 6.5 to 7 for humans. The higher PH moderates the impact of the acids produced by cavity-causing bacteria.