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Cat Teeth A Complete Guide to Your Furry Friend’s Dental Health

How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Purr-fectly Healthy

Learn everything you need to know about cat teeth, from their anatomy and function to their common problems and solutions, and how to provide

Devi 8 months ago 0 206

If you’re a cat lover, you probably know how important it is to take care of your furry friend’s health and happiness. But did you know that your cat’s teeth are also a vital part of their well-being? In fact, dental problems are very common in cats, and can cause pain, infection, and even affect other organs in the body. That’s why it’s essential to keep your cat’s teeth clean and healthy, and prevent any dental issues from developing. In this blog post, I’ll share with you some amazing facts about cat teeth, some common dental problems that cats face, and some tips on how to care for your cat’s teeth at home and at the vet. Let’s get started!

The Basics of Cat Teeth

Cats have two sets of teeth in their lifetime: baby teeth and adult teeth. Kittens have 26 baby teeth, which start to appear when they are about two weeks old, and fall out when they are about three to four months old. Adult cats have 30 permanent teeth, which replace the baby teeth and are fully developed by the time they are six to seven months old1.

Cats have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Incisors are the small teeth in the front of the mouth, which are used for grooming and nibbling. Canines are the long and sharp teeth on the sides of the mouth, which are used for biting and tearing. Premolars are the teeth behind the canines, which are used for chewing and grinding. Molars are the teeth at the back of the mouth, which are also used for chewing and grinding1.

Unlike humans, cats can’t chew their food sideways, because their jaws only move up and down. That’s why they rely on their sharp and strong teeth to crush and shred their food into small pieces that they can swallow2.

The Importance of Cat Dental Health

Just like humans, cats can suffer from various dental problems, such as plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth resorption. These problems can cause inflammation, infection, pain, and tooth loss in cats, and can also affect their overall health and quality of life.

Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth, and can cause bad breath and gum irritation. If plaque is not removed, it can harden into tartar, which is a yellow or brown substance that sticks to the teeth and causes more inflammation and damage to the gums and teeth. Tartar can also create pockets between the teeth and the gums, where more bacteria can grow and cause infection3.

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums, which can cause swelling, redness, bleeding, and pain. Gingivitis is usually caused by plaque and tartar buildup, but can also be influenced by other factors, such as diet, stress, genetics, and immune system disorders. Gingivitis can progress to periodontal disease, which is the infection and destruction of the tissues that support the teeth, such as the gums, the bone, and the ligaments. Periodontal disease can cause severe pain, tooth loss, and bone loss, and can also spread to other parts of the body, such as the heart, the kidneys, and the liver3.

Tooth resorption is a condition where the tooth structure is gradually destroyed by the body’s own cells. The cause of tooth resorption is unknown, but it is very common in cats, affecting up to 75% of them4. Tooth resorption can cause pain, sensitivity, and tooth loss, and can also affect the cat’s appetite and behavior. Tooth resorption can only be diagnosed by a veterinarian, and the treatment usually involves extracting the affected teeth4.

How to Spot Signs of Dental Problems in Cats

Cats are very good at hiding their pain and discomfort, so it can be hard to tell if they have dental problems. However, there are some signs that you can look for, such as:

  • Bad breath
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating or chewing
  • Loss of appetite or weight
  • Food falling out of the mouth
  • Pawing at the face or mouth
  • Rubbing the face or mouth on objects
  • Swelling or bleeding in the mouth
  • Loose or missing teeth
  • Change in behavior or mood5

If you notice any of these signs in your cat, you should take them to the vet as soon as possible, as they may indicate a serious dental problem that needs treatment.

How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth at Home

The best way to prevent dental problems in your cat is to take care of their teeth at home. Here are some tips on how to do that:

  • Brush your cat’s teeth regularly. This is the most effective way to remove plaque and tartar from your cat’s teeth, and prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. You should use a toothbrush and toothpaste that are specially designed for cats, and never use human toothpaste, as it can be harmful to your cat. You should brush your cat’s teeth at least once a week, or ideally every day, if your cat allows it. You can start by gently rubbing your cat’s teeth and gums with your finger, and then gradually introduce the toothbrush and toothpaste. You should reward your cat with praise and treats after each brushing session, to make it a positive experience for them6.
  • Give your cat dental treats and toys. If your cat is not a fan of toothbrushing, you can also give them dental treats and toys that can help clean their teeth and massage their gums. Dental treats and toys are usually made of chewy or crunchy materials that can scrape off plaque and tartar from your cat’s teeth, and also contain ingredients that can reduce bacteria and inflammation in the mouth. You should choose dental treats and toys that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC), which means that they have been tested and proven to be effective for dental health7.
  • Feed your cat a balanced and high-quality diet. Your cat’s diet can also affect their dental health, as some foods can promote plaque and tartar buildup, while others can help prevent it. You should feed your cat a balanced and high-quality diet that meets their nutritional needs, and avoid giving them too many human foods or treats that can be sugary or sticky. You can also feed your cat some dry food or kibble, as it can help clean their teeth by scraping off plaque and tartar. However, you should not rely on dry food alone, as it can also cause dehydration and other health problems in cats. You should also provide your cat with fresh water at all times, as it can help wash away food particles and bacteria from their mouth8.
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How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth at the Vet

In addition to caring for your cat’s teeth at home, you should also take your cat to the vet for regular dental checkups and cleanings. Your vet can examine your cat’s mouth and teeth, and detect any signs of dental problems or abnormalities. Your vet can also perform a professional dental cleaning, which involves removing plaque and tartar from your cat’s teeth and under the gums, using special instruments and techniques. A professional dental cleaning can also involve taking dental x-rays, which can reveal any hidden problems or damage in your cat’s teeth and jaw. A professional dental cleaning is usually done under general anesthesia, to ensure your cat’s safety and comfort during the procedure3.

You should take your cat to the vet for a dental checkup at least once a year, or more often if your cat has a history of dental problems or is at a higher risk of developing them. Some factors that can increase your cat’s risk of dental problems include:

  • Age: Older cats are more likely to have dental problems, such as tooth resorption and periodontal disease, than younger cats.
  • Breed: Some breeds of cats, such as Persians and Siamese, are more prone to dental problems, such as tooth resorption and malocclusion, than others.
  • Diet: Cats that eat mostly wet or soft food, or human foods or treats, are more likely to have plaque and tartar buildup, than cats that eat some dry food or kibble.
  • Health: Cats that have certain health conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or immune system disorders, are more likely to have dental problems, such as gingivitis and periodontal disease, than healthy cats3.

How Many Teeth Do Cats Have?

Cats have two sets of teeth in their lifetime: deciduous teeth and permanent teeth. Deciduous teeth, also known as baby teeth or milk teeth, are the first ones to appear when kittens are about two to four weeks old. They have 26 deciduous teeth in total, consisting of 12 incisors, 10 canines, and four molars. These teeth are smaller, sharper, and whiter than the permanent ones. They help kittens chew their soft food and stimulate their gums.

Deciduous teeth start to fall out when kittens are about three to four months old, making room for the permanent teeth. Permanent teeth, also known as adult teeth, are the ones that cats will have for the rest of their lives. They have 30 permanent teeth in total, consisting of 12 incisors, 10 canines, four premolars, and four molars. These teeth are larger, stronger, and more yellowish than the deciduous ones. They help cats chew their hard food and tear their prey.

What Are the Different Types of Cat Teeth?

Cats have four different types of teeth, each with a specific function and shape. They are:

  • Incisors: These are the small teeth in the front of the mouth, between the canines. They have a flat and narrow shape, and they are used for grooming, scraping meat off bones, and nibbling on small pieces of food.
  • Canines: These are the long and pointed teeth on the corners of the mouth, also known as fangs. They have a curved and sharp shape, and they are used for piercing, holding, and killing prey, as well as for defense and display.
  • Premolars: These are the teeth behind the canines, on the upper and lower jaws. They have a serrated and triangular shape, and they are used for slicing and shearing meat and bones.
  • Molars: These are the teeth at the back of the mouth, on the upper and lower jaws. They have a flat and broad shape, and they are used for grinding and crushing food.

How to Tell the Age of a Cat by Its Teeth?

One of the ways to estimate the age of a cat is by looking at its teeth. However, this method is not very accurate, as different cats may have different rates of dental development and wear. Also, factors such as diet, genetics, health, and environment can affect the condition of the teeth. Therefore, it is best to consult a veterinarian for a more precise age determination. However, here are some general guidelines to help you get an idea of how old your cat is by its teeth:

  • Kittens (0 to 6 months): Kittens have deciduous teeth that are small, sharp, and white. They start to erupt when kittens are about two to four weeks old, and they are fully grown by six weeks. They start to fall out when kittens are about three to four months old, and they are replaced by permanent teeth by six months.
  • Young cats (6 months to 2 years): Young cats have permanent teeth that are large, strong, and yellowish. They start to erupt when cats are about four to five months old, and they are fully grown by six to seven months. They have little to no wear or tartar buildup, and they are shiny and smooth.
  • Adult cats (2 to 10 years): Adult cats have permanent teeth that show signs of wear and tear. They may have some tartar buildup, plaque, or staining, and they may have some chips or cracks. They may also have some gum recession or inflammation, and they may have some tooth loss or decay.
  • Senior cats (10 years and older): Senior cats have permanent teeth that show advanced signs of aging. They may have significant tartar buildup, plaque, or staining, and they may have many chips or cracks. They may also have severe gum recession or inflammation, and they may have extensive tooth loss or decay. They may also have difficulty chewing or eating, and they may have bad breath or drooling.
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What Are the Common Problems of Cat Teeth?

Cat teeth are prone to various problems that can affect their health and comfort. Some of the common problems of cat teeth are:

  • Periodontal disease: This is the inflammation and infection of the gums and other structures that support the teeth. It is caused by bacteria that accumulate on the teeth and form plaque and tartar. It can lead to gum bleeding, swelling, and pain, as well as tooth loss and bone damage. It can also affect other organs, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver, if the bacteria enter the bloodstream. Periodontal disease is the most common dental problem in cats, affecting more than 70% of cats over three years old.
  • Tooth resorption: This is the erosion and destruction of the tooth structure, starting from the inside and progressing to the outside. It is caused by unknown factors, but it may be related to inflammation, diet, or genetics. It can lead to tooth sensitivity, pain, and fracture, as well as exposure of the pulp and nerve. Tooth resorption is the second most common dental problem in cats, affecting more than 50% of cats over three years old.
  • Stomatitis: This is the inflammation and ulceration of the mouth, including the gums, tongue, cheeks, and throat. It is caused by an abnormal immune response to plaque, tartar, or other irritants. It can lead to mouth pain, difficulty eating, drooling, and bad breath. Stomatitis is a rare but serious dental problem in cats, affecting less than 10% of cats.
  • Dental trauma: This is the injury or damage to the teeth or mouth, caused by accidents, fights, or foreign objects. It can lead to tooth fracture, displacement, or loss, as well as soft tissue laceration, bleeding, or infection. Dental trauma is an uncommon but possible dental problem in cats, affecting less than 5% of cats.

How to Prevent and Treat Cat Teeth Problems?

The best way to prevent and treat cat teeth problems is to provide regular dental care for your cat. This includes:

  • Brushing your cat’s teeth daily or at least weekly, using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for cats. This will help remove plaque and tartar, and prevent periodontal disease and tooth resorption.
  • Giving your cat dental treats, toys, or chews, that can help clean their teeth and massage their gums. This will also help remove plaque and tartar, and prevent periodontal disease and tooth resorption.
  • Feeding your cat a balanced and nutritious diet, that can support their dental health and immune system. This will also help prevent periodontal disease, tooth resorption, and stomatitis.
  • Taking your cat to the veterinarian for regular dental checkups and cleanings, at least once a year or more often if needed. This will help detect and treat any dental problems, such as periodontal disease, tooth resorption, stomatitis, or dental trauma, before they become worse or cause complications.
  • Following your veterinarian’s advice and recommendations, regarding any dental treatments or procedures that your cat may need, such as scaling, polishing, extraction, or surgery. This will help restore your cat’s dental health and comfort, and prevent further damage or infection.

How to Tell If Your Cat Has a Tooth Problem?

Your cat may not show any obvious signs or symptoms of a tooth problem, as they tend to hide their pain and discomfort. However, there are some subtle clues that you can look for, such as:

  • Changes in behavior, such as being less active, playful, or social, or being more irritable, aggressive, or vocal.
  • Changes in appetite, such as eating less, more slowly, or more selectively, or avoiding hard or crunchy food.
  • Changes in grooming, such as grooming less, more, or differently, or having matted or dirty fur.
  • Changes in mouth, such as having bad breath, drooling, bleeding, or swelling, or having difficulty opening or closing the mouth.
  • Changes in teeth, such as having discolored, loose, broken, or missing teeth, or having visible plaque or tartar.

If you notice any of these signs or symptoms, you should take your cat to the veterinarian as soon as possible, as they may indicate a serious dental problem that needs immediate attention.

How to Make Your Cat Enjoy Dental Care?

Many cats do not like having their teeth brushed or their mouth examined, as they may find it uncomfortable, scary, or stressful. However, there are some ways to make your cat enjoy dental care, such as:

  • Starting early, when your cat is still a kitten, and getting them used to having their teeth and mouth touched and handled. This will help them associate dental care with positive experiences and rewards, and reduce their fear and resistance.
  • Going slow, and gradually introducing your cat to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and dental treats, toys, or chews. This will help them get familiar and comfortable with the dental care items, and avoid overwhelming or upsetting them.
  • Being gentle, and using a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste that is flavored and formulated for cats. This will help prevent hurting or irritating your cat’s teeth and gums,and make the brushing process more pleasant and enjoyable for your cat.
  • Being patient, and rewarding your cat with praise, treats, or playtime after each dental care session. This will help reinforce their positive behavior and motivation, and make them look forward to the next dental care session.
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By following these tips, you can make your cat enjoy dental care, and make it a fun and bonding activity for both of you.

How to Choose the Best Dental Care Products for Your Cat?

There are many dental care products available for your cat, such as toothbrushes, toothpastes, dental treats, toys, or chews. However, not all of them are equally effective, safe, or suitable for your cat. Therefore, you should choose the best dental care products for your cat, based on the following criteria:

  • Quality: The dental care products should be of high quality, and meet the standards and guidelines of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) or other reputable organizations. They should also have positive reviews and feedback from other cat owners and veterinarians.
  • Safety: The dental care products should be safe for your cat, and not contain any harmful or toxic ingredients, such as alcohol, xylitol, or artificial flavors or colors. They should also not pose any choking or swallowing hazards, or cause any allergic or adverse reactions.
  • Suitability: The dental care products should be suitable for your cat, and match their age, size, breed, and dental condition. They should also fit your cat’s preferences, personality, and lifestyle. For example, some cats may prefer a finger toothbrush over a regular one, or a crunchy treat over a chewy one.
  • Variety: The dental care products should offer some variety, and not be boring or repetitive for your cat. You should change the dental care products every once in a while, or use different ones for different occasions. For example, you can use a toothpaste with a different flavor, or a dental toy with a different shape or texture.

By choosing the best dental care products for your cat, you can ensure that your cat gets the most benefit and enjoyment from their dental care routine.

How to Deal with a Cat That Hates Dental Care?

Some cats may hate dental care, and resist or avoid it at all costs. They may run away, hide, scratch, bite, or hiss, whenever you try to brush their teeth or examine their mouth. This can make dental care a frustrating and stressful experience for both you and your cat. However, there are some ways to deal with a cat that hates dental care, such as:

  • Understanding the reason: The first step is to understand why your cat hates dental care, and what triggers their negative reaction. It could be due to fear, pain, discomfort, or trauma, or it could be due to their natural instinct, temperament, or habit. By understanding the reason, you can address the root cause of the problem, and find the best solution for your cat.
  • Consulting a veterinarian: The second step is to consult a veterinarian, and rule out any medical or dental issues that may be causing or contributing to your cat’s hatred of dental care. Your veterinarian can also advise you on the best dental care practices and products for your cat, and recommend any treatments or procedures that your cat may need.
  • Desensitizing your cat: The third step is to desensitize your cat, and gradually acclimate them to dental care, using positive reinforcement and gentle persuasion. You can start by letting your cat sniff and lick the toothbrush and toothpaste, and then slowly move on to touching their teeth and gums, and then brushing their teeth. You can also use dental treats, toys, or chews, to make dental care more appealing and rewarding for your cat. You should always praise and reward your cat for their cooperation and progress, and never force or punish them for their resistance or refusal.
  • Seeking professional help: The fourth step is to seek professional help, if your cat still hates dental care, despite your best efforts. You can take your cat to a professional cat groomer or a veterinary dentist, who can provide expert dental care for your cat, using specialized tools and techniques. They can also sedate your cat, if necessary, to make the dental care process more comfortable and less stressful for your cat.

By following these steps, you can deal with a cat that hates dental care, and improve their dental health and happiness.

Cat teeth are an essential part of your cat’s health and well-being, and they deserve your attention and care. By learning everything you need to know about cat teeth, you can provide the best dental care for your cat, and prevent and treat any dental problems that may arise. You can also make your cat enjoy dental care, and make it a positive and rewarding experience for both of you. By doing so, you can ensure that your cat has a healthy and happy smile, and a long and fulfilling life.

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