Are Dog Teeth Stronger Than Human Teeth?

It’s well known that dogs have strong bites, but do they have strong teeth? The difference, which requires some background information on the differences between dog and human teeth, helps explain why dogs are more likely to break their teeth while chewing on their favorite toys.

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What are the Differences Between Human Teeth and Dog Teeth?

When it comes to understanding dogs’ teeth, we can use our own teeth as a point of comparison.

Much like us, dogs have “baby” teeth and “adult” teeth.

Their first set of teeth is in puppyhood, where they eventually lose all 28 baby teeth. These teeth are officially known as “deciduous teeth” but they are sometimes called “milk teeth” as well.

Adult dogs have 42 teeth, which come in between 4 to 6 months of age. Unlike children, who lose and replace their baby teeth over the course of a few years, dogs make the transition between puppy and adult teeth in a matter of weeks.

Our teeth types have similar purposes

There are also some similarities between the type of teeth we have.

Humans have incisors, which are the short, flat-top teeth that allow us to bite–or incise–our food. Humans have 8 of these, dogs have 12. In addition to using them to rip meat off of bones, incisors also help dogs chomp fleas, mites, and dirt off their fur.

Next up are “canines“, the long pointy teeth in the corners. We have 4, and use these to tear food apart. Dogs have four of these too but they’re mostly used for puncturing.

Further back in our mouths are premolars, which we have 8 of and use for chewing. Dogs have 12 and use them for cutting food. Finally there are the molars in the far back. We have 12 (if we have all our wisdom teeth), dogs have 10. Both species use molars to grind up food.

Black and white dog "smiling" at the camera, showing its teeth

What makes teeth “strong”?

You’ve probably heard that dogs have a lot of bite force. While this is true (the average dog has about 250-300 PSI of bite force, vs 120 PSI in humans), this isn’t what makes teeth strong.

Bite force is a measure of jaw strength, and how hard a dog can clamp down.

Whether their teeth can withstand that pressure is a separate matter, as pet owners whose dogs have broken teeth can attest to.

Teeth structure

First let’s talk about how tooth structure works. The basic structure is the same as in human teeth: nerve endings and blood vessels are surrounded by dentin. The dentin itself is sensitive, and needs the outer layer of enamel to protect it.

Dog tooth structure is not entirely the same as humans. The photo above shows a human tooth with two roots (ends). Dogs’ lower molars have three roots, and in general dogs’ teeth have much longer roots than humans.

Diagram of a human tooth
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

This enamel–or lack there of–is why some people’s teeth are sensitive to hot or cold beverages.

Because enamel is not “living” (it has no blood or nerve supply), it cannot repair itself once damaged. When the enamel becomes damaged, the underlying dentin is exposed. This an lead to a spread of bacteria, infection, inflammation, and pain.

Tooth enamel is stronger than bone, and the hardest substance in the body. Enamel is what makes teeth strong.

Do Humans Have Stronger Teeth than Dogs?

Now that we know what makes teeth strong, we know that the question “do humans have stronger teeth than dogs?” is actually “do humans have stronger enamel than dogs?”

As it turns out, yes, humans have thicker enamel than dogs.

Multiple studies have been done to examine the differences between human and canine enamel. These studies have shown that dog enamel is up to 6 times thinner than human enamel.

In other words, dogs naturally have less of a protective coating on their teeth than humans do, making their teeth less strong and more prone to fracture. And because enamel does not grow back, that means their owners have to take care to prevent enamel damage.

The combination of weaker enamel and stronger jaw muscles means that dogs are more prone to breaking their teeth while chewing on something hard.

Dogs instinctively love to chew, so do not expect chewing behavior to ever go away. Instead, give them something safe to chew, and avoid letting them chew cow bones, stones, metal bars, or other hard objects.

Close up of a dog's face and teeth
Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons

Dog Dental Facts

In short, dog teeth are not as strong as human teeth, even though we cannot apply them with as much pressure as our canine friends.

Let’s wrap up with some more dog teeth facts:

  • 80% of dogs show signs of gum disease by age 3 (compared to 50% of adults aged 30 and up).
  • Just like in humans, missing enamel can cause tooth pain and sensitivity in dogs. If you notice a change in your dog’s eating habits, then tooth issues may be to blame. Healthy dog teeth are white with no coloration, and the gums should be pink without bleeding or inflammation.
  • Dog cavities are extremely rare, likely because dogs consume less sugar than humans. Much like humans, dogs’ teeth can be filled, or have crowns added.
  • Veterinarians say that teeth issues such as root exposure, bleeding gums, and loose teeth are just as painful in dogs as they are in humans. So get your pup’s teeth checked out if you notice something amiss!
  • Only 8% of dog owners brush their dogs’ teeth at least once a day. Another 18% brushes them at least once a week. 43% of dog owners say that they have never brushed their dog’s teeth. (Psst, if your dog won’t let you brush their teeth, check out this post!)

If you have any questions about your dog’s teeth, your vet is your best option. They will be able to diagnose any issues and recommend treatment. Dogs can also have their teeth cleaned while under anesthesia.

Wrap Up

We hope you’ve found this post interesting! We also hope that it has inspired you to take better care of your dog’s teeth, as they’re such a fragile and important part of your pup’s health!

PuppyLists is written by Kat, who has owned, trained, volunteered with, and loved dogs for nearly three decades. When she isn't writing or researching, she's out adventuring with her 15 year old Lab mix.