Do Cats Lose Teeth In Old Age

Do Cats Lose Teeth as They Age?

Yes, it is common for cats to lose teeth as they get older. Like humans, cats have two sets of teeth in their lifetimes. They are born with baby teeth which eventually fall out and are replaced by permanent adult teeth. According to the Cat Dental Health Project, by around 6 months of age, a kitten should have all of its 30 adult teeth come in.

As cats age, years of plaque buildup, periodontal disease, and other oral health issues can cause inflammation and damage in the mouth. This leads to dental problems and tooth loss. The accumulation of plaque and tartar wears down the tooth and erodes the tissues holding it in place. In advanced cases, severe gingivitis causes the tooth to loosen completely and fall out. Older cats typically begin losing teeth around 7-10 years of age, though some may start sooner. According to Catster, at least 85% of cats over age 6 have some form of dental disease, so losing teeth in old age is fairly common in felines.

When Do Cats Start Losing Teeth?

Cats can start losing their teeth as early as 4 months of age. According to Willowbrook Vet Clinic, kittens will start to lose their baby teeth around 4-6 months old as their permanent adult teeth start to erupt1. This process of losing baby teeth and getting adult teeth is known as teething.

Most cats will have a full set of adult teeth around 6-7 months old. However, some cats may continue teething up until they are a year old. According to Well Pet Humane, kittens should have all their adult teeth in by the time they reach 12 months of age2.

So in summary, the age range when cats start to lose their baby teeth is generally between 4-12 months old, with most cats completing the teething process by 6-7 months of age.

What Teeth are Most Commonly Lost?

The types of teeth that cats most often lose first are the incisors and canine teeth. The incisors are the small teeth at the front of the mouth used for biting and tearing food. The canine teeth, or fangs, are located on either side of the incisors and are used for grabbing and puncturing prey.

As cats age, their incisors and canines are subjected to a lot of wear and tear during eating and grooming. The constant use causes them to weaken over time and eventually fall out. This leaves gaps in the front of the mouth where these teeth used to be.

According to veterinarians, incisors and canines account for the majority of teeth lost in aging cats. The incisors often become loose, infected, or damaged around 5-10 years of age. The upper canine teeth frequently fall out or need to be extracted between 10-15 years old.

So when examining your aging cat’s mouth, look for missing incisors and canines first. This can help you identify potential dental issues early on.

Why Do Cats Lose Teeth?

The most common cause of tooth loss in aging cats is gum disease. Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, occurs when plaque builds up on a cat’s teeth. Over time, the plaque hardens into tartar that irritates the gums and causes inflammation. As the disease progresses, it can destroy the tissues that support the teeth, leading to tooth loss. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, by age 3 over 70% of cats have some degree of gum disease.

As cats age, gum disease tends to worsen. The tartar below the gumline causes painful inflammation and infection. The gums recede, exposing more of the tooth root and leading to loose teeth that eventually fall out. Older cats are at higher risk as plaque has had years to accumulate and damage the gums and tooth roots. In addition, immune function declines with age, making it harder for cats to fight off the bacteria causing gum disease.

Other factors that can cause tooth loss in senior cats include:

  • Injury or trauma damaging the teeth
  • Oral cancer
  • Kidney disease
  • Diabetes
  • Nutritional deficiencies

However, gum disease remains the primary culprit behind age-related tooth loss in cats. Careful dental care and routine veterinary cleanings can help prevent excessive plaque buildup and onset of gum disease.

Signs Your Cat is Losing Teeth

There are several noticeable signs that your cat may be losing teeth as they age. Some of the most common symptoms to watch for include:

Bad Breath – One of the first signs of dental issues in cats is foul-smelling breath. This is caused by bacteria building up on the teeth and gums.

Discomfort When Eating – Cats who are losing teeth may show signs of discomfort or pain when eating dry food. You may notice them eating more slowly or favoring one side.

Excessive Drooling – Excessive drooling or dribbling can signal dental problems. The drool is often tinged with blood.

Swollen or Bleeding Gums – Gums that look red, inflamed or bleeding easily are a sign of gum disease, which can lead to tooth loss.

Weight Loss – If eating becomes painful due to dental issues, cats may start to lose weight. This occurs because they have trouble chewing and swallowing food.

Decreased Grooming – Your cat grooming itself less may indicate mouth pain. Cats with sore mouths tend to avoid activities that put pressure on their jaws.

Changes in Behavior – Dental pain can make cats irritable. You may notice increased vocalization, hiding, or other changes in normal behavior.

Risks of Tooth Loss in Cats

Tooth loss in cats can lead to some serious health issues if left untreated. According to CDHP, dental disease is the most common clinical condition diagnosed in cats. As plaque and tartar build up on the teeth, it can lead to infection and deterioration of the roots and gums.

Some of the most notable risks and health conditions associated with untreated dental disease and tooth loss in cats include:

  • Pain – Exposed roots and infection in the mouth can be very painful.
  • Trouble Eating – Missing teeth make it harder for cats to chew food properly.
  • Weight Loss – Oral pain and difficulty eating leads to cats eating less.
  • Organ Disease – Bacteria from severe dental infections can spread through the bloodstream and damage organs like the heart, liver and kidneys.
  • Jaw Fracture – Severely infected and decaying teeth become brittle and prone to fracture.
  • Tooth Abscess – Pus-filled infections at the root of teeth.
  • Oral Cancer – Chronic dental irritation raises cancer risk.

The longer dental disease and tooth loss goes untreated, the higher the risks to a cat’s health and quality of life. That’s why it’s so important to monitor your aging cat’s mouth and schedule regular veterinary dental cleanings.

Caring for Your Cat’s Changing Mouth

As cats age and lose teeth, their mouths and dental needs change. Here are some tips to support your senior cat’s dental health:

Get regular vet checkups to monitor tooth loss and dental issues. Your vet can recommend any needed treatment or medications (source).

Brush your cat’s teeth daily if possible. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. This removes plaque and bacteria helping preserve teeth (source).

Feed wet food or add water to dry food to soften it. Canned food is easier to chew for cats with missing teeth (source).

Avoid hard treats and bones. Stick to soft treats your cat can comfortably chew and digest.

Watch for signs of mouth pain like reduced eating. See your vet if your cat shows discomfort while eating.

Be patient and loving with your cat during this transition. Providing dental care and an age-appropriate diet will help them adjust.

When to See the Vet

As cat owners, it’s important to regularly monitor our cats’ health and be aware of any concerning changes. This is especially true when it comes to dental health. There are certain red flags that indicate your cat should be seen by a vet for an examination of their mouth.

According to the experts at Veterinary Dental (, you should contact your vet right away if you notice any of the following signs in your cat:

  • Sudden loss of multiple teeth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty eating or chewing
  • Swollen or bleeding gums
  • Foul breath
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the face or mouth

These can all be indications of an underlying dental disease or infection that requires veterinary attention and treatment. Don’t wait to see if symptoms improve on their own, as delaying may allow the condition to worsen. It’s always better to have your vet examine your cat’s mouth sooner rather than later if you notice anything out of the ordinary.

Some signs are emergencies that require immediate evaluation, such as sudden tooth loss, extreme pain, or bleeding from the mouth. In these cases, get your cat to the vet right away as they may need urgent dental care.

While losing some teeth is normal for senior cats, abnormal or excessive tooth loss should always be evaluated. Your vet can pinpoint the cause, recommend treatment options, and help manage your cat’s changing dental health as they age.

Treatment Options

There are several options for treating tooth loss and dental issues in cats. Treatment will depend on the underlying cause and severity of the condition. Here is an overview of common treatments vets may recommend:

Regular Teeth Cleaning: Vets often recommend professional teeth cleaning at least once a year. This removes plaque and tartar to protect teeth and gums. Cleanings may need to be more frequent in cats with dental disease.

Tooth Extraction: If a tooth is severely damaged, decayed or infected, a vet may recommend extraction. This removes the painful tooth and prevents further infection.

Antibiotics: Bacterial infections are common with dental disease. Vets may prescribe antibiotics to clear infections and reduce inflammation.

Pain Medication: Vets can provide cat-safe pain medication to keep cats comfortable after procedures or if they have tooth pain.

Special Diets: Vets may recommend dental or soft food diets. These are easier to chew and swallow for cats with painful mouths.

Other Treatments: Depending on the case, vets may recommend root canals, crowns, braces or other dental treatments to save damaged teeth.

Home care like brushing and dental treats can also help maintain dental health between vet visits. But professional cleaning and treatment is crucial for advanced dental disease. Work with your vet to determine the best treatment plan for your cat’s needs.

Supporting Dental Health

Even if your cat has already lost teeth, preventive dental care can help maintain the health of the teeth they still have. Here are some tips for supporting your cat’s dental health:

Brush your cat’s teeth daily if possible. Use a soft-bristled brush and cat-safe toothpaste. Brushing helps remove plaque and tartar buildup. Be gentle and go slowly so your cat can get used to it.

Offer dental treats and foods. Chewing crunchy treats and foods helps scrape away tartar. There are special dental diets and treats made to support oral health.

Give chew toys. Chewing on toys can help clean teeth and massage gums. Be sure to pick cat-safe chew toys.

Have regular vet dental cleanings. Even with good home care, yearly professional cleanings help ward off problems. [1]

Use mouth rinses or gels. Your vet may recommend prescription rinses to use at home to control bacteria, plaque, and bad breath.

Try cat-safe antibacterial water additives. Some additives help control bacteria when your cat drinks.

With some adjustments and proactive care, you can support your cat’s oral health and quality of life even after they lose some teeth. Focus on providing a nutritious soft diet they can eat comfortably. And be vigilant about preventive dental care for any remaining teeth.

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