Do Cats’ Teeth Grow Back? The Truth About Feline Tooth Replacement

Cats, like humans, have two sets of teeth in their lifetimes. Kittens are born without teeth, and their baby teeth start coming in around 3-4 weeks of age. By around 6 months old, kittens begin losing their baby teeth as the permanent adult teeth replace them. This process is normal and natural.

However, adult cats can also lose or break teeth due to trauma, gum disease, or other oral health issues. This leads to the question: do cat teeth grow back if they are lost or removed? In this article, we will cover the anatomy of cat teeth, tooth loss and growth in kittens and adult cats, and how to care for your cat’s teeth.

Anatomy of Cat Teeth

Cats have four types of teeth – incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. Each type of tooth serves a specific purpose in the eating process.

Incisors are the small, chisel-shaped teeth at the front of the mouth used for biting and tearing food. Cats have six incisors on top and six on the bottom. The incisors help cats grip and tear meat from bones (Dental Anatomy of Cats).

Canine teeth are the sharp, pointy teeth that look like fangs. Cats have four canine teeth – one upper and one lower canine on each side of the mouth. Canines help cats kill prey and tear meat (Cat Teeth: Everything You Need To Know).

Premolars and molars are located along the sides and rear of the mouth behind the canine teeth. Cats have six premolars on top and six on bottom. They also have two molars on top and two on bottom. The premolars and molars help cats crush and grind food.

Kitten Teeth

Kittens are born without any teeth. They are toothless for the first 2-4 weeks of life. Around 3 weeks of age, their baby teeth, also called milk teeth or deciduous teeth, start to erupt through the gums. According to the ASPCA, the incisors are usually the first baby teeth to come in, starting with the two bottom front teeth.1

kitten teeth coming in

Between 4-6 weeks old, kittens will have all their baby teeth fully erupted. Kittens have a total of 26 baby teeth including:

  • 12 incisors (6 top, 6 bottom)
  • 4 canines (2 top, 2 bottom)
  • 6 premolars (3 top, 3 bottom)
  • 4 molars (2 top, 2 bottom)

These milk teeth are smaller, sharper, and weaker than permanent adult teeth. Kittens use them for eating solid food and self-defense until they fall out and are replaced by permanent teeth. Kittens’ gums may be irritated or sore as the teeth start pushing through.

Permanent Cat Teeth

Adult cats have 30 permanent teeth. These include: [Source 1]

  • 12 incisors – these are the small, pointed teeth at the front of the mouth used for biting and gnawing.
  • 4 canines – these are the fang-like teeth used for grabbing, holding, and tearing prey.
  • 10 premolars – these are located along the sides of the mouth and have multiple cusps for shearing and grinding food.
  • 4 molars – the flat teeth at the very back of the mouth used for chewing and crushing food. [Source 2]

Kittens start getting their permanent teeth around 3-4 months of age. By around 6-7 months old, they have all their adult teeth grown in.

Tooth Loss in Cats

Tooth loss is common in cats, especially as they age. The most common cause of tooth loss in cats is periodontal disease. Periodontal disease is inflammation and infection of the tissues surrounding the teeth, including the gums, periodontal ligament, and alveolar bone. It is caused by plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar which irritates the gums and can lead to infection. As periodontal disease progresses, it can destroy the tissues supporting the teeth, leading to tooth loss.

cat losing tooth

According to the Veterinary Dental Center, by age 3, most cats have some degree of periodontal disease. By age 5, moderate to severe dental disease is present in 70% of cats. If left untreated, periodontal disease will continue to worsen and cause painful tooth loss.

Other causes of tooth loss in cats include:

  • Tooth resorption – a painful disease where the tooth is destroyed from the inside out
  • Trauma or injury to the mouth
  • Congenital abnormalities
  • Oral cancer
  • Feline stomatitis – severe oral inflammation

Kittens can also lose baby teeth if they are lost prematurely or fail to fall out on their own as the permanent teeth erupt. Most cats have a full set of adult teeth around 6-7 months of age.

Do Lost Cat Teeth Grow Back?

Unlike some animals that continuously grow new teeth, once a cat has lost a permanent tooth, it does not grow back. The tooth socket will heal over with gum tissue and fill in where the tooth root once was. This is normal, but it does leave a gap where the tooth is missing.

According to https://veterinarydental.com/cat-losing-teeth/, lost teeth do not regenerate or grow back in cats. Their permanent adult teeth are the final set they get. Kittens lose their baby teeth as their permanent teeth erupt around 4-7 months old. After this point, any lost or damaged permanent teeth cannot be replaced naturally.

While lost cat teeth do not grow back, there are some options for replacing them such as implants or bridges. However, these are not always necessary for cats who lose teeth later in life and can still eat well without them. The key is keeping remaining teeth healthy through regular dental cleanings and care.

Impact of Tooth Loss

Tooth loss can cause significant issues for cats. According to https://veterinarydental.com/cat-losing-teeth/, missing teeth make it difficult for cats to pick up and chew food properly. Cats rely on their teeth to capture and kill prey, so tooth loss impairs their natural hunting abilities. It also causes painful gum exposure and erosion.

In addition, advanced dental disease that leads to tooth loss can spread infection to other parts of the body. Bacteria from infected teeth and gums can enter the bloodstream and damage internal organs like the heart, kidneys and liver (https://thevetdentists.com/how-to-care-for-a-cat-losing-its-teeth/). Tooth loss is frequently a sign of severe periodontal disease, and the longer it goes untreated, the higher the risk of systemic health complications.

Missing teeth or infected gums also make it painful for cats to eat. They may become hesitant to chew and have difficulty consuming hard foods. As a result, cats with dental issues often lose weight and muscle mass due to decreased eating. All of these impacts underscore why prompt dental care is crucial when cats start losing teeth.

Caring for Cat Teeth

Proper dental care is essential for your cat’s health and well-being. Here are some tips for taking care of your cat’s teeth:

brushing cat's teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily is the best way to remove plaque and tartar. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. Introduce brushing gradually and make it a positive experience with praise and treats. Focus on the outer surfaces of the teeth.

Dental treats like Greenies can also help scrub your cat’s teeth. Look for treats with the VOHC seal from the Veterinary Oral Health Council.[1]

Water additives like Oxyfresh Pet can freshen breath and reduce bacteria. Always follow package directions.

Regular dental cleanings by your veterinarian (typically under anesthesia) are important for tartar removal and dental x-rays to check tooth health. Cleanings are usually recommended annually.

Signs like bad breath, difficulty eating, or loose teeth indicate a vet visit is needed. Addressing dental disease early is key.

With proper home care and professional cleanings, your cat’s teeth can stay healthy and allow them to eat, groom, and live comfortably.

[1] https://www.vohc.org/productguide.html

Signs of Dental Problems

Cats with dental disease may show a variety of signs indicating they are uncomfortable or in pain. Some of the most common signs of dental problems in cats include:

    cat with dental problems

  • Bad breath (halitosis) – This is one of the earliest and most obvious signs of dental disease in cats. Bacteria builds up on the teeth and gums, causing a foul odor.
  • Drooling or pawing at the mouth – Excessive drooling or pawing at the mouth is a sign your cat may have tooth pain or irritation.
  • Loose or lost teeth – Advanced dental disease can cause teeth to become loose or even fall out.
  • Difficulty eating – Your cat may drop food, prefer soft foods, or refuse to eat altogether if dental pain makes chewing difficult.
  • Decreased grooming – Cats with mouth pain often stop grooming themselves as fastidiously.
  • Weight loss – Dental issues can make it hard for cats to eat properly, leading to weight loss.
  • Nasal discharge – Abscesses from advanced dental infections can cause nasal discharge.

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to have your cat examined by a veterinarian. The earlier dental disease is caught, the better the chances of reversing it with a dental cleaning and other treatments. Left untreated, dental infections can be painful for cats and even lead to more serious health issues.

Sources:
https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease
https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dental-disease-in-cats

Conclusion

Cats are polyphyodonts, meaning they have two sets of teeth in their lifetime. Kittens are born without teeth, which begin to erupt around 2-4 weeks of age. By around 6 months old, kittens have their full set of 30 deciduous teeth. These deciduous teeth start falling out around 3-4 months of age, gradually being replaced by permanent adult teeth which are usually all grown in by around 6-7 months old.

Unlike some animals, once an adult cat loses or breaks a tooth, it does not grow back. The lost tooth is gone for good. This is because, like humans, cats do not have the capability to regenerate teeth. Therefore, it is extremely important to take good care of your cat’s teeth by feeding a healthy diet, providing dental care, and scheduling regular veterinary dental cleanings as needed.

To summarize, cat teeth do not grow back once lost. Kittens are born toothless but grow deciduous teeth that are eventually replaced by permanent adult teeth. However, if an adult cat loses or damages a tooth, no new tooth grows in its place, leaving a permanent gap. Proper dental care and health is essential to help preserve your cat’s teeth for life.

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