Cats grow two sets of teeth throughout their lifetimes. They have baby teeth that grow during kittenhood. Then, these teeth fall out and get replaced by adult teeth. Once a cat grows all their adult teeth, they will have a total of 30 teeth.
Cats are susceptible to dental disease, and between 50% to 90% of cats older than 4 years old will experience some sort of dental issue 1. So, it’s important for cat owners to be knowledgeable about basic feline dental care and how to keep their cats’ teeth clean and healthy.
Cat Teeth Development
Kittens are born without teeth. They start to grow their first set of teeth, also known as deciduous teeth, when they’re about 3 weeks old 2. Their teeth will continue to grow until they’re about 6 to 8 weeks old.
The Transition from Baby Teeth to Adult Teeth
Similar to humans, kittens have fewer teeth than adult cats. They grow up to 26 deciduous teeth, which include 12 incisors, 4 canines, and 10 premolars. Kittens don’t keep their deciduous teeth for too long. These teeth usually start to get loose and fall off when kittens are about 3 to 4 months old. Around this time, kittens will start teething and can get mouthy or start biting because teething can be irritating and painful. The incisors usually fall out first. The canines follow, and then the premolars are typically the last teeth to fall out.
Sometimes, you’ll be able to find your kitten’s baby teeth as they fall out. It’s also normal for kittens to accidentally swallow their baby teeth. There’s no need to panic, as this happens often and doesn’t negatively affect a kitten’s health.
In some cases, a deciduous tooth may not completely fall out, which results in a persistent tooth. It’s helpful to regularly check your kitten’s teeth and look for any persistent teeth as it’s teething. You may see remains of a tooth in the gums or start to see two teeth growing in the same socket if the adult tooth starts to grow. Persistent teeth that aren’t examined right away can lead to tooth decay, dental issues, and malalignment. So, make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian if you notice any persistent teeth in your kitten’s mouth.
By the time a kitten reaches 6 months old, it will have its full set of adult teeth. Adult cats have 30 teeth, which consist of 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars, and 4 molars. Once a cat grows its full set of teeth, it won’t grow any more new teeth.
Basic Cat Dental Care
Regular dental cleaning and maintenance will help prevent common dental issues in cats, like gingivitis and periodontal disease. One of the best ways to protect your cat’s teeth is to brush them daily. It may take some time to train your cat to get used to and tolerate tooth brushing, but it’s well worth the effort because it’s one of the most effective ways to keep its teeth clean and prevent tartar buildup.
You can also feed your cat dental treats or use water additives. However, they’re not as effective as tooth brushing. Another way to promote dental health is to schedule regular checkups with your veterinarian. Your veterinarian can determine if your cat’s teeth are clean and if they’re due for a dental cleaning.
Signs of Healthy Cat Teeth
Check your cat’s teeth regularly to ensure they’re clean and healthy. Healthy teeth will be white and free of plaque or tartar buildup. Make sure to also check for any chipped teeth.
It’s also important to examine your cat’s gums. They should be pink and free of any lesions, and unhealthy gums can also appear red and swollen. Your cat’s breath can be another indicator of their oral health. Their breath can have a mild smell, especially if they’ve just eaten. However, if the odor is strong and has an unpleasant smell, it’s likely that your cat has developed some sort of oral issue.
Being knowledgeable about healthy dental development and hygiene can help reduce the risk of cats developing certain dental diseases and issues. Make sure to check your cat’s teeth regularly and keep up with cleaning them to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Consult your veterinarian if you ever suspect something’s wrong with your cat’s teeth. Make sure to also keep up with annual check-ups so that your veterinarian can help determine if any extra care needs to be done for your cat’s teeth.
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