The Orthopedic Foundation for Animals, more commonly known to fanciers as OFA, recently established a dentition database at the request of the American Rottweiler Club. The new database is open to all breeds and is used to certify full dentition.

Any licensed veterinarian may perform the examination for submission to OFA, recording the exam results on an “Application for Dentition Database.” There is no minimum age for submission but, of course, prior to certification all adult teeth must be fully erupted. OFA notes that the purpose of the database is to certify that all adult teeth are fully erupted and present. It is not intended to certify compliance with any specific breed standard.

It is perhaps surprising the number of AKC breed standards that address complete dentition. Several include a disqualification for a specific number of missing teeth; for instance, Rottweilers and Black Russian Terriers are disqualified for two or more missing teeth, Komondors and Beaucerons for three or more, and Doberman Pinschers for four or more.

Working breed standards, indeed, address dentition more than any other Group, although not always with a related disqualification. Bernese Mountain Dogs and Tibetan Mastiffs, among others, call for complete dentition. Giant Schnauzers must have “A full complement of sound white teeth (6/6 incisors, 2/2 canines, 8/8 premolars, 4/6 molars) with a scissors bite.”

Herding breed standards also often address the number of teeth. Like Giants, Australian Shepherds should have a “full complement” of teeth, while the Border Collie standard says, “Complete dentition is required. Missing molars or pre-molars are serious faults…” The Bearded Collie standard says that “full dentition is desirable,” and the German Shepherd standard says this: “Teeth – 42 in number – 20 upper and 22 lower – are strongly developed and meet in a scissors bite… Complete dentition is to be preferred. Any missing teeth other than first premolars is a serious fault.”

The application for the OFA dentition database includes a chart that the attending veterinarian must fill out during the examination.

Standards for breeds that hunt – across several of the variety Groups – might be expected to address dentition. In the Sporting breeds, Labrador Retrievers, Golden Retrievers and Weimaraners, among others, call for complete dentition. The standard for the Borzoi, a hunting hound, reads, “Missing teeth should be penalized.” In the Terrier Group, the Parson Russell Terrier standard says, “Teeth are large with complete dentition…”

It makes sense that complete dentition is desirable in hunting breeds. With breeds that have traditionally served other functions, however, particularly in the “companion” breeds, the number of teeth a dog has may not seem significant. But based on the experiences of a number of long-time breeders, when an individual line begins to produce missing teeth, the problem is often compounded generation after generation, and over time the original character of the head and face could be altered. Fewer teeth could lead, for instance, to a more snipey muzzle in a breed that should have a full muzzle.

In describing the foreface and muzzle, the Bichon Frise breed standard says this: “There is a slight degree of chiseling under the eyes, but not so much as to result in a weak or snipey foreface. The lower jaw is strong.” Perhaps as assurance against loss of the strong lower jaw, the breed standard also calls for missing teeth to be “severely faulted.” The American Eskimo standard is another example of a companion breed whose standard calls for a “full complement” of teeth.

AKC’s two hairless breeds also have standards that address dentition. Scientific research has shown that in some mammals, the gene that is active in developing hair also has a role in developing teeth; thus a mutation that interrupts normal hair development will also interfere with the development of teeth. Hairless dog breeds often do not have full dentition. In the Chinese Crested, missing teeth are “to be faulted” in the Powderpuff, or coated, variety, but “the Hairless variety is not to be penalized for absence of full dentition.” The same applies to the Xoloitzcuintli, whose standard says: “In the hairless variety, the absence of premolars is acceptable. Complete set of incisors preferred, but lack thereof is not to be penalized. In the coated variety, complete dentition is required.”

With the need in so many breeds to monitor dentition, the new dentition database is already being well-utilized. According to OFA Chief Operating Officer Eddie Dziuk, in the first quarter of 2012, the new database brought in 345 submissions, representing 41 different breeds.

The top five breeds in terms of submissions were Rottweilers, 30 percent; Golden Retrievers, 10 percent; German Shepherd Dogs, nine percent; Poodles, eight percent; and Borzoi, five percent. “Of the top five breeds, the Rott, Golden, Shepherd and Borzoi standards all address full dentition to varying degrees,” said Dziuk. “The Poodle standard does not, so it is interesting that they represent eight percent of submissions so far.”

A relatively new breed to the Canine Health Information Center, the Komondor parent club included the dentition exam as one of its CHIC requirements.

Dziuk also noted that Komondors are a relatively new breed to the Canine Health Information Center program, and the parent club has included the dentition exam as one of its CHIC requirements. Click here, to see them.

For information about other OFA databases, visit the OFA website. To learn more about the Canine Health Information Center, go to