Cats have two sets of teeth; baby (deciduous or milk) teeth and adult (non-deciduous) teeth. Teething in kittens begins with the appearance of the first baby teeth around 2-3 weeks, and by the eighth week, all 26 baby teeth are in. From 12-16 weeks the baby teeth start to fall out and are replaced by the adult teeth. During this time, pet owners may notice baby teeth in the home, although it is not unusual for the kitten to swallow the teeth when they eat. All of the adult teeth are in by eight months.
Sometimes the baby tooth doesn’t fall out before the adult tooth emerges, which is known as a retained baby tooth. For some cats, the tooth will eventually fall out on its own, but sometimes it will be necessary for the veterinarian to remove the baby tooth.
How many teeth does an adult cat have?
Adult cats have a total of 30 teeth which are made up of incisors, canines, premolars and molars
- 4 canines (the long fang-like teeth)
- 12 incisors (the small teeth at the front of the mouth top and bottom which are for)
- 10 premolars
- 4 molars
Is it normal for an adult cat to lose teeth?
It is not normal for an adult cat to lose teeth. The most common cause of tooth loss in the adult cat is gum disease followed by trauma.
Gum (periodontal) disease is the leading cause of tooth loss in adult cats and should be on the radar of all cat owners and veterinarians. The disease starts when plaque hardens and forms tartar (calculus). Tartar collects under the gum line and forms pockets. Bacteria and inflammation in the affected area cause destruction of the surrounding tissue eventually leading to tooth loss. Between 50-90% of cats over the age of four have gum disease which is a staggering figure.
Common signs of gum disease include bad breath, red and inflamed teeth, bleeding gums and reluctance to eat hard food.
Researchers have also linked gum disease as a major risk factor for the development of chronic kidney disease in cats, with a higher incidence in purebreds. Chronic kidney disease is an irreversible slow and progressive decline in kidney function, there is no cure, although its progress can be slowed.
Trauma can also be a cause of tooth loss, and a cat who has experienced a trauma such as a fall, motor vehicle accident, dog attack, cat fight or an act of cruelty (punch or a kick). Any cat who has experienced trauma should be checked over by a veterinarian to evaluate the bones, soft tissue and internal organs.
What should I do if my cat loses a tooth?
Even if the cat appears otherwise well, schedule a visit to the veterinarian for a thorough oral check-up. Gingivitis can be reversed if caught early enough, but gum disease can only be managed. Typical treatment includes a thorough clean of the teeth above and below the gum line to remove tartar and where necessary, remove loose or diseased teeth.
Is it okay if a cat is missing a tooth?
Cats do fine with a missing tooth or even several teeth. In some cases, it may be necessary to switch to a softer diet, but many cats can continue to eat dry food even with multiple teeth missing.
Obviously, it is important to find and address the underlying cause to prevent further tooth loss and evaluate for additional health problems.
Can teeth grow back?
If the tooth loss is a baby tooth, it will be replaced with an adult tooth. Once an adult tooth is lost, it won’t grow back.
Dental care is important for all cats and there are several different options to keep our cat’s teeth clean and healthy.
- Brush daily with a cat toothbrush and toothpaste (never use human toothpaste on cats or dogs)
- Feed raw chicken necks or cubes of steak once or twice a week
- Hills t/d is a dental formula that is made of larger sized biscuits to remove plaque as the cat eats
- Cat chew toys, which remove plaque as the cat chews on the product
- Water or food additives can help to reduce plaque and keep the breath fresh
Annual veterinary visits
Every cat should see a veterinarian for a health check once a year, during the visit, the veterinarian will perform a complete oral evaluation and recommend treatment as needed. Cats over seven should have bi-annual health checks as well as bloodwork to screen for age-related diseases.