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Do Cats Lose Teeth as They Get Older? Vet-Reviewed Dental Facts & Tips

Written by: Codee Chessher

Last Updated on July 19, 2024 by Catster Editorial Team

veterinarian checks mouth of the maine coon cat

Do Cats Lose Teeth as They Get Older? Vet-Reviewed Dental Facts & Tips


Dr. Chyrle Bonk Photo


Dr. Chyrle Bonk


The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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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.

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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.

cat teeth resorption
Image Credit: Yaya-Photos, Shutterstock

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.

Signs of Feline Dental Disease:
  • Swollen, inflamed gums
  • Visible tartar accumulation on or around the teeth
  • Excessive salivation or drooling
  • Pawing at the face
  • Head shaking
  • Difficulty chewing or eating
  • Dropping food when eating

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Do Cats Have Baby Teeth? Cat Teeth Anatomy Explained

cat dental formula, cat teeth
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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.

Cat Dental Tips:
  • Attend regular veterinary check ups so that your veterinarian can assess your cat’s oral health and provide treatment as needed.
  • Make sure your cat has free access to clean water at all times, not only for hydration but also to help your cat wash away food debris in their mouth that breeds bacteria.
  • Start brushing your cat’s teeth while they’re young, as older cats may be more reluctant or unwilling to adapt to a new dental routine.
  • To acclimate older cats to teeth brushing, first try rubbing some fishy tuna juice on your cat’s gums and teeth with your fingers. Repeat this a couple of times to build positive reinforcement, then slowly progress toward introducing cat-safe toothpaste and the toothbrush.
  • When you’re brushing your cat’s teeth, make sure to massage their gums to stimulate healthy blood flow and promote healthy gums.
  • Consider feeding dental treats to your cat. They’re no substitute for teeth brushing, but they’re better than nothing.
  • Ask your vet about specific diets or other treatments that could benefit your cat’s dental health.

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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.

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Featured Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

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