How to Care for Your Cat's Teeth
Authored by Jodi Helmer
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Authored by Jodi Helmer
Cats were born to hunt. In the wild, cats depend on their teeth to capture and eat their prey. Your domestic kitty might not hunting but their teeth are still essential for eating, picking up objects and grooming—and that makes it important to protect their dental health.
Kittens are born without teeth. It doesn’t take long for those mewing, toothless kitties to develop razor sharp teeth. At eight weeks old, kittens have 26 teeth; those temporary teeth, called milk teeth, will fall out over the next several months to make space for adult teeth. Cats have all 30 adult teeth by the time they reach six months of age.
Cats have four different kinds of teeth: canines are used to puncture skin and secure prey; premolars and molars help grind up their food; and the incisors, which are the small teeth between the canines, help them pick things up and are also used for grooming.
Each tooth is made up of three distinct components: the crown, root and pulp.
Crown: This is the part of the tooth above the gumline. The crown is covered in enamel, a hard coating that protects the dentin, which is the soft part of the tooth underneath.
Root: The part of the tooth below the gumline is called the root; it anchors the tooth in the jawbone. A thin dental tissue called cementum covers the root and is meant to protect it (just as the enamel protects the part of the tooth above the gumline).
Pulp: The inner part of the tooth is made up of nerves and blood vessels known as the pulp; the enamel and cementum help protect it.
Although cats don’t get cavities, feline dental disease is common. Studies show that up to 90 percent of cats over four years old suffer with conditions like gingivitis, red, swollen and painful gums; periodontitis, irreversible swelling of the gums and weakening of the jaw bones that can lead to tooth loss.
Your cat may not let you brush their teeth but there are other ways to protect their dental health.
Including some kibble in your cat’s diet can help with their dental health. Dry food is more abrasive and can help scrub plaque and tartar from the teeth, according to research that found cats that ate dry food had better oral health than cats that ate wet food.
The hard, textured surfaces on cat dental chews have a similar effect to kibble: It’s meant to scrub off the plaque and tartar to reduce the likelihood of dental disease in cats.
Adding a measured amount of an oral rinse to your cat’s water bowl or squirting a small amount in their mouth can kill bacteria that cause dental disease.
Every annual checkup with your veterinarian should include an oral exam. It’s also important to watch for excessive drool, bad breath, bleeding gums, loss of appetite and other signs of dental disease in cats. Call your veterinarian if you notice anything out of the ordinary.
Your cat might not be stalking prey in the wild but prioritizing their oral health is still important to ensure that they can use their teeth for eating, playing and grooming while avoiding painful dental disease.
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