Missing Pet Teeth

Something’s missing!

If you notice your pet is missing a tooth, it should be investigated. In some cases, the tooth is truly missing, while in others the tooth/root is present under the gumline.

Do not assume a tooth is truly absent or that it was previously extracted just because it is not seen above the gumline.


Dental x-rays must be taken of the area to confirm the true absence of the tooth.

If the tooth is truly absent, no therapy is necessary.

However, teeth under the gum can cause serious problems. Therefore, all “missing” pet teeth should be x-rayed to determine true absence vs subgingival problems.

Possible reasons for “missing” pet teeth

These include:

  • The pet was born without a tooth, which is common in small and brachiocephalic breeds.
    • No specific therapy is necessary.
  • Previously exfoliated or extracted, which is rare in young patients, but quite common in older animals.
    • Again, no specific therapy is necessary.
  • Fracture below the gum. This can occur from trauma or as a result of an incomplete extraction attempt.
    • Dental x-rays can confirm a retained root and reveal infection if present.
    • A surgical extraction is generally recommended to alleviate pain and infection.
  • Impacted or embedded teeth. This condition is most common in the first and second premolars of brachiocephalic breeds.
    • In general, we recommend that these teeth be extracted to avoid a dentigerous cyst (see below).

Necessity of Treatment

Unerupted teeth may create a dentigerous cyst.

It has been shown that 29% of unerupted teeth will lead to a cyst under the dog or cat’s gums.

These cysts can grow quite large and be disfiguring and can ultimately result in a jaw fracture. Furthermore, these cysts can become infected, creating significant swelling and pain. Finally, these cysts can transform into cancer.

Radiograph of a cyst

The treatment recommendation is the surgical removal of the cyst and all involved teeth. A qualified veterinary dentist is recommended for the best surgical outcome.

At VDS we offer these services to address missing teeth

An extraction is the pulling of one or more of your dog or cat's teeth. This is often needed because of complications due to complications with periodontal disease.

Additional Research

Evaluation of extraction sites for evidence of retained tooth roots and periapical pathology
Read Dr. Brook Niemiec and James Moore's study on retained roots