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The Doberman Pinscher Club of America

canine dentition in the doberman by darlene young
When we think about the canine anatomy, especially in the area of dentition we must keep in mind that dogs are carnivores and have teeth that reflect their meat-eating evolutionary history.  In dogs, food is bolted rather than chewed, and a complete occlusal surface is not necessary.
Breeders need to know the number of teeth; the type of bite and how the incisors meet; the relationship of the canine teeth, the premolars; the molars, and jaw curvature.  If there are any genetic inconsistencies, this should be taken into consideration in the breeding program.
In the Doberman Pinscher standard the mouth is described as Teeth strongly developed and white.  Lower incisors upright and touching inside of the upper incisors true scissors bite.  42 correctly placed teeth, 22 in the lower, and 20 in the upper jaw.  Distemper teeth shall not be penalized.  Disqualifying Faults:  Overshot more than 3/16 on an inch.  Undershot more than 1/8 of an inch.  Four or more missing teeth.
In counting the teeth, they are divided into 4 quadrants.  Upper and lower left; Upper and lower right.  There are 3 upper left incisors; 1 upper left canine; 4 upper left premolars; 2 upper left molars.  It is the same for the upper right teeth.  There are 3 lower left incisors; 1 lower left canine; 4 lower left premolars; 3 lower left molars.  It is the same for the lower right teeth.  Total teeth in an adult canine should be 42.  There are 20 upper and 22 lower.
When you hear the term occlusion this describes the occlusal plane of the upper and lower arches.  The premolars should interdigitate from the second premolars back to the cusps of the upper fourth premolar with overlapping of the cusp tips.  This means that the molars should occlude to allow the cusps to function in crushing.  The premolars and molars should be aligned.  When the occlusion is good, there will be little open space between the upper and lower teeth. The teeth will interlock with each other forming a tight fitting interlocked jaw.  The incisors will fit into a scissors bite with the top incisors fitting in front of the bottom incisors tightly.  They should not be level with each other; they should not be overshot (open space between the upper and lower incisors) or undershot (lower incisors fitting in front of upper incisors). 
A common abnormality in canine dentition is retention of deciduous (baby) teeth.  This occurs when the permanent teeth bud does not grow immediately beneath the deciduous tooth, and therefore does not cause the roots of the deciduous tooth to be resorbed.  Often there is a missing adult tooth underneath a retained baby tooth.  If a retained tooth causes the permanent tooth to erupt in an abnormal position (often the case of canine tooth retention) it should be extracted.
Another bite abnormality is the wry bite.  An abnormal occlusion caused by a difference in length of the upper and lower jaw bones.  The abnormality results in a variety of different jaw relationships as one side of the jaw grows faster than the other and distorts or twists the mouth giving it a wry appearance.  This condition is quite a handicap and leads to difficulty in grasping and chewing food as well as retrieving game.
Since missing teeth and poor occlusion are genetic mutations, breeders must consider this in planning their breeding programs.  Large strong teeth also indicate good bone texture in the skeleton.

Normal occlusion side view

Normal occlusion frontal view

Overshot mouth
Illustrations reprinted from Veterinary Dental Techniques
Steven Holmstrom, DVM, Patricia Frost, DVM,
Ronald Gammon, DVM
W.B. Saunders Company 1992


Illustration reprinted from Versatile Hunting Dog Magazine,

December 2001 Dental Anatomy of Dogs

Illustration reprinted from The American Doberman Pincher Educational Foundation