Cat teeth: diseases, care and disease prevention

 Inflammatory processes in the oral cavity have a negative impact on the whole body. They may lead to digestion deterioration, create an additional load on the cardiovascular system and weaken the immunity of the cat. Therefore, responsible owners need to know how many teeth a cat normally has, and how to take care for the cat oral cavity, as well as what symptoms are reasons to contact your veterinarian.

Dental system of kittens

 Kittens are born completely without teeth as when being fed with milk there is no need in them. The longer a cat-mother feeds its babies with milk, the later the first milk teeth appear in kittens. Usually first teeth begin to erupt at the fourth week of life. Kittens have only 26 milk teeth.

 Within the fourth month of life milk teeth begin to fall out being replaced by permanent teeth. Some owners are wondering whether teeth in cats should fall out and be replaced without exterior intervention or should this process be controlled? In most cases, the owner needs to monitor the process only. It is desirable to inspect the teeth several times a week to make sure that milk teeth don’t impede the growth of permanent ones dramatically. If a milk tooth doesn’t fell out on its own, and a permanent one is already appearing in its place, the kitten has to have its tooth extracted, otherwise the permanent tooth can grow crooked. It is vital to remember that during the teeth replacement period kitten’s immunity declines; so before this process comes to an end the kitten shouldn’t undergo vaccination or some other medical interference. 

Dental system of adult cats

 Adult cats have 30 teeth: 12 incisors, 4 canines and 14 premolars (8 in the upper jaw and 6 in the lower one). Teeth replacement in cats is completed by the age of about 8 months. Permanent teeth are very sharp, their surface is cutting. The role of incisors is to capture food and to take care of the coat, canines are a formidable weapon for hunting and protection from enemies, and premolars are used to crush large pieces of food.

 Some owners are concerned whether teeth in cats can be replaced after they become one year old. Unfortunately, no. If the cat is already 1 year old and doesn’t have all the permanent teeth, it will miss one or more teeth for the rest of its life. Oligodontia (congenital teeth missing) is inherited, so such cats shouldn’t participate in breeding. Depending on the number of teeth missing the pet experiences certain degree of discomfort when eating. This can cause digestive disorders and diseases of the digestive tract. Feeding for such cats is chosen individually chosen after consulting a vet.

Common symptoms of dental system diseases

 Lack of dental care, poor nutrition, hard water, genetic predisposition and some infections can cause oral cavity diseases. When the cat has a toothache, you can notice the following symptoms:


  • The pet is constantly scratching its muzzle with the paw or persistently rubs its cheek against the furniture;
  • Bad breath appears;
  • Gums redden and become inflamed;
  • One tooth or several teeth change its color;
  • The cat doesn’t allow the owner touching its muzzle, becomes aggressive, if the owner is trying to look into its mouth;
  • Depending on how many teeth hurt, the cat can either completely refuse to eat or eat with caution (chew on one side, drop pieces of food, chew slower than usual);
  • When the pain is severe pain the cat becomes restless: constantly scratching its cheek with the paw, meowing, sitting in a rigid position or opening the jaw. The salivation may be increased.


Milk teeth in cats are perfectly white, because there is too little time for them to obtain plaque. But permanent teeth may become grayish or yellowish over time because of the saliva, food particles and a myriad of bacteria. The appearance of plaque is affected by many factors: heredity, type of feeding, digestion etc. In order to help cat’s teeth remain white and healthy you need to help in deposit removal: buy chew toys, cleaning biscuits and clean your pet’s teeth regularly.


 If the plaque isn’t removed timely, it hardens and forms the tooth stone, i.e. porous sediments, which are teeming with bacteria, on the tooth surface. Tooth stone appears at the bottom of the tooth, and then expands to the top, getting under the gum and up, eventually covering the tooth completely. Tartar in cats is the main reason for visiting a vet dentist. If tartar isn’t removed properly the cat may lose one or more teeth, and even become seriously ill due to chronic gums inflammation.

 Depending on how many teeth in the adult cat are covered with stone, whether the gums are affected and whether the cat can tolerate the manipulation, the veterinarian chooses a method for deposits removal. The vet will scrape the tartar with a spatula or with the help of ultrasound. In mild cases plaque dissolving gels may help. For nervous animals and cats that have the tartar under the gum light anesthesia is recommended (from which the pet will wake up after 15-20 minutes).

Tooth decay

 Cat teeth can get destroyed because of tooth decay, i.e. the decay of bone tissue. There are several causes of tooth decay: mechanical damage of the enamel, unhealthy diet, tartar, metabolic functions disorder, deficiency of iodine, fluorine, vitamin B and molybdenum. Left unattended tooth decay will lead to teeth rotting including the teeth neighboring to the one affected and spreading to the entire oral cavity. Do teeth in cats hurt? Yes, hurt just like in humans, so carious tooth should be removed or cured as soon as possible.


 Because of infections or of the untreated tooth decay, a cavity filled with pus appears on the gum. Over time, the bag bursts and the pus flows out. Because of the pain the cat refuses to eat, loses weight and may have fever. Since it is almost impossible to brush cat’s teeth in such a situation, plaque is quickly formed and hardens turning into tartar. Remember that osteomyelitis requires immediate intervention of the vet! The doctor will open the fistula and remove the fluid from the cavity, and then will treat the area with antiseptics. 


 Because of infections or of the untreated tooth decay, overgrown tartar, the root of the tooth and the adjacent soft tissues become inflamed. The cat experiences pain, refuses to eat and has bad breath. Do teeth in cats drop? Yes. And the reason for this may be periodontitis: inflamed tissue can’t keep the tooth root properly, so the root is destroyed.


 Tissues around the tooth redden and bleed, sores and cracks appear on the gums. The causes may be the following: lack of dental care, infection, metabolic disorders, and internal organs diseases. Tartar in cats is one of the main causes of gingivitis. For the treatment of mild gingivitis the owner can use popular remedies (such as irrigation with the chamomile, oak bark or dogwood water) or using special gels. If gingival condition does not improve within a week, consult your vet.


 Unfortunately, dental disease in cats is a frequent phenomenon. In wild cats the teeth are cleaned mechanically through eating raw meat and crunching cartilage. In addition, domestic cats live twice as long as stray animals, so the enamel weakens with age, and any load on the teeth leads to mechanical damage. Cracks lead to bacteria penetration, which in turn leads to tooth decay and other problems. Many owners exacerbate the situation, as they are just too lazy to brush cat’s teeth. In order to keep the teeth of your cat healthy for years you should:

  • Inspect the oral cavity, removing the pieces of food stuck regularly;
  • Consult the vet when noticing even minor signs of gum or teeth disease;
  • Support the balanced diet of the cat (if you feed the cat with dry food, add to the menu special products aimed at teeth and gums disease prevention).

 Since it is not always possible to brush the teeth in cats (some pets categorically refuse to tolerate a foreign object in their mouth), you need to bring your cat to the veterinary clinic at least every six months to remove plaque and tartar.

 If possible, you should brush your cat’s teeth once a week. To remove plaque it is recommended to use a soft bristle brush or a special rubber tool designed for cat teeth. Human toothpaste isn’t the best choice, so it is wiser to buy a tube of special paste or gel for pets. You should help the cat get used to this procedure gradually: first only inspecting the mouth, then touching the teeth with your fingers, and then giving the cat to chew the brush coated with a paste (it would be great if you find a paste with meat flavor which taste won’t frighten the pet with its “chemical” smell). After cleaning it is necessary to remove any excess paste with a sterile pad.


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