Is it normal for our feline companions to lose teeth when they get older? While some cats will lose teeth as they age, it’s definitely not considered normal. The most common reason for cats to lose a tooth is dental disease, specifically gum and periodontal disease. While dental disease and tooth loss may not be normal, it’s extremely common. It’s estimated that 50-90% of cats over the age of four have some form of dental disease 1. That doesn’t mean that they are losing teeth, but the presence of dental disease may be a precursor for missing teeth down the road.
It’s not easy in the moment to know what to do if your cat unexpectedly loses a tooth, or how to spot dental disease before it can become a serious problem. Read on as we illuminate both of those topics, as well as provide some handy dental tips that’ll help keep your cat’s teeth in great shape for years to come.
What Is Cat Dental Disease?
We’ve all heard of dental disease, and you may have a vague idea of how it works, but how exactly does it happen? It all starts with plaque, which is a thin layer that includes bacteria that naturally forms on your cat’s (and your!) teeth. If not removed, that plaque can harden into tartar. Once hardened, tartar is more difficult to remove.
Tartar on the teeth can then start to inflame the gums and surrounding dental tissues. This affects the integrity of these tissues and they may start to lose the ability to hold the teeth into the jaw and gums, potentially leading to tooth loss if untreated.
What Should I Do if My Cat Loses a Tooth?
If your adult cat suddenly loses a tooth out of nowhere, you can try to safely look in your cat’s mouth for signs of periodontal disease and call your vet immediately after. Since mature cats don’t normally lose teeth, this could be a signal of dental disease or trauma. At a minimum, it’s a sign that your cat needs to see a veterinarian.
Signs of Dental Disease in Cats
Dental disease can be a long, progressive disease that snowballs over time with dental neglect. While it’s definitely better to treat dental disease when it’s in the early stages, it can often be difficult to identify.
Do Cats Have Baby Teeth? Cat Teeth Anatomy Explained
Yes, cats have baby teeth that they lose as they age, just like dogs, humans, and many other mammals. Kittens get their first set of 26 teeth at 3 to 4 weeks, right about the age they’re starting to wean from mother’s milk to solid food.
These deciduous “milk teeth” won’t stick around long, as your kitten starts to lose them at 3 or 4 months old. The adult teeth come in rapidly afterward, with most cats having a full adult set of 30 pearly white chompers by the time they’re 6 months old.
- Fun fact: Lions, tigers, and most other cats in the Felidae family have a full set of 30 teeth too!
Handy Dental Tips for Helping Your Cat’s Health
It should be apparent that your cat’s dental hygiene is critically important to keeping not only their mouth healthy but their whole body, too. The best way to prevent dental disease in the first place is to practice good dental hygiene with your cat, even if they aren’t always cooperative about it.
While some cats lose a few teeth as they age, it’s not considered normal, and nearly every cat may show early signs of dental disease by 4 years old. Before your cat loses a tooth, we strongly urge you to begin a tooth-brushing routine with your cat to help keep the worst of dental disease safely at bay. You’ll also want to have regular veterinary checkups to evaluate your cat’s oral hygiene.
Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock