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Why Does My Cat Have a Snaggle Tooth? Reasons & Care Guide

Cats are good at hiding pain, so look for subtle ways your cat shows that she’s hurting.

Written by: JaneA Kelley

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

veterinarian checks teeth of the maine coon cat

Why Does My Cat Have a Snaggle Tooth? Reasons & Care Guide

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, so now is a great time to give you some tips about how your cat may be trying to tell you (or more accurately, trying not to tell you) that they have some problems in their mouth. Because cats are experts at hiding discomfort until they’re so sick they can no longer hide their problems, it’s up to you to be on the lookout for these subtle indications of pain.

The 6 Signs That Your Cat Might Have Dental Disease

1. Your cat has become a sloppy eater

If your cat is dropping their kibbles all over the place or leaving pieces of half-chewed kitty niblets on the floor, they might be trying to tell you that their teeth are hurting.

Tabby cat eating from inside inside a cat carrier box
Image Credit: Oleg Batrak, Shutterstock

2. They have bad breath

No matter what anybody says, it’s not normal for cats to have very bad-smelling breath. Sure, your kitty’s breath is going to be a little bit smelly just after they eat, but if they lick you and you smell grossness in their saliva, that’s a sign they need to go to the vet.

3. Their fur smells gross

A healthy cat typically smells something like fresh-cut hay: grassy with an extremely light tinge of sweetness. If your cat’s fur doesn’t smell fresh, there’s something wrong. Either they not grooming or they are grooming but their saliva is nasty. Either one of these things can be caused by dental disease. When your cat’s mouth is painful, they are not going to be delighted to use it for anything, including grooming. Even if they are not in enough pain to avoid grooming entirely, the smell in their mouth is going to get on their fur when they clean themselves.

man holding cat with bad smell
Image Credit: Stanislaw Mikulski. Shutterstock

4. They are drooling

Speaking of saliva, if your cat is drooling, they may be in pain or suffering from dental disease. We are not talking about cats who drool when they purr because they’re so deliriously happy; we are talking about cats who drool when they’re just sitting somewhere or who drool while looking wistfully at the food in their dish.

5. Their temper has changed

If you’ve ever had a toothache, dental pain does not positively affect your mood. The same thing holds true for cats: a cat with sore teeth and gums may become grumpy or start avoiding affection. They may also react by pulling back, swatting, or nipping if you try to rub them around their cheeks.

cat wearing fabric collar looking camera and lying on the pillow when owner hand patting back
Image Credit: RJ22, Shutterstock

6. They have a broken or missing fang

Sure, this isn’t exactly a subtle sign, but you may be surprised to learn that a lot of people disregard broken canine teeth or figure the tooth just fell out naturally. This is rarely the case. If a tooth breaks, especially if it breaks at the root, it’s because the cat had resorptive lesions (“kitty cavities”) that weakened the tooth to the point that it broke. A cat’s pulp cavity goes very close to the end of the canine tooth, so even a small chip off the end of the fang can lead to serious pain.

The importance of regular dental care can’t be stated strongly enough. Untreated dental disease can cause bacteria to enter the bloodstream and lead to problems with the heart, kidneys, liver, and gastrointestinal tract. For this and many other reasons, it’s well worth the cost to make sure your kitty gets regular dental checkups and cleanings as recommended by your vet.

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

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