The UK Beagle standard states that the beagle should have a scissor bite. This means that the teeth in the top jaw should tightly overlap the bottom teeth. The jaws should be symmetrical and the teeth clean. Such a jaw would be able to grip prey correctly and allow the beagle to fulfil its function as a hunting hound. This is the jaw shape in most prey animals in the wild.

An adult dog has 42 permanent teeth. These are made up of four types of teeth, incisors, canines, premolars and molars. There are six incisors in each jaw at the front. They are for cutting and picking at food. Next are the canines, two in each jaw and used for tearing and holding food. Behind these are the premolars, eight in each jaw and for cutting and tearing food. The furthest back premolar is the three rooted carnassial tooth. If any are not present it is generally the smaller more forward premolars. At back are the molars, four on the top and six on the bottom used for grinding.

There are occasions when the deciduous puppy teeth do not all come out particularly the canines. These may need to be removed by a vet. If they are left they often cause food to trap between them and the permanent teeth resulting in decay.

A retained canine

Any shape other than a correct scissor bite is a fault and ideally not bred on from. Different breeds of dogs have different jaw shapes and this trait is highly hereditary so it follows that bad mouths and shapes are likely to be passed on. Faults should be considered according to how bad they are. One misplaced tooth is less of a problem than an undershot (where the upper jaw is shorter than the lower) or overshot (upper jaw longer than the lower and not tightly overlapping) jaw and may be less likely to be passed on.

All dogs should have their teeth kept clean. Some dogs naturally seem to chew their food and others just gulp it down. It helps to provide things to know on, Nylabones, rawhide chews, hoofs (preferably not stuffed as this gives calories without gain) and raw meaty bones all help to keep teeth clean. Remember that more natural products usually take longer to chew up and tend to provide fewer calories than those manufactured to provide a substitute for teeth cleaning. If dogs teeth are allowed to get dirty and covered in tartar this acts as a source of infection which not only affects the mouth but every time the dog eats is driven into the bloodstream through the gums and travels to other body parts such as the heart valves and kidneys. Infected teeth are also painful so should be attended to, if necessary your vet may recommend a general anaesthetic and scale and polish if they get out of control. It is more commonly the canines and carnassial teeth that get tartar build-up as they are the biggest and don’t sink as far into food thus reducing the abrasive cleaning action of eating bigger pieces of food.