Does A Broken Tooth Hurt A Cat?

Dental health is extremely important for cats, as problems with their teeth can be very painful and lead to other health complications. One common dental issue for cats is broken or fractured teeth. This can occur for a variety of reasons, such as trauma, chewing on hard objects, or underlying dental disease. Broken teeth are very painful for cats and require veterinary treatment. This article provides an overview of cat dental health and the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for broken cat teeth. Proper dental care and prevention of fractures is also discussed.

Causes of Broken Teeth in Cats

There are several common causes of broken teeth in cats:

  • Biting or chewing on hard objects like bones, toys, or sticks. Cats have sharp teeth built for eating meat, not hard materials. Their teeth can fracture when chewing on hard or foreign objects (Source).
  • Trauma from fights with other cats or animals. Cat fights frequently lead to broken teeth and other injuries. The canine teeth are especially prone to fracture during aggressive encounters (Source).
  • Dental disease like gingivitis or periodontal disease. Untreated gum inflammation and infection can weaken the structures supporting the teeth and make them more prone to damage (Source).
  • Pressure from toys. Some cats aggressively “bite” or chew on toys, putting extreme pressure on their teeth that leads to fractures over time.
  • Blunt trauma from a fall or accident. Falls, motor vehicle accidents, or other trauma can result in broken teeth.
  • Extraction complications. Improper extraction of a diseased tooth by a veterinarian can sometimes lead to fracture of adjacent teeth.

Kittens and older cats tend to be more prone to broken teeth than other ages. Kittens’ permanent teeth are still developing, while older cats’ teeth deteriorate with age.

Signs Your Cat Has a Broken Tooth

There are several signs that may indicate your cat has a broken tooth. Some of the most common symptoms include:

  • Changes in eating habits – Your cat may start chewing food only on one side of their mouth, eat more slowly, drop food from their mouth, or refuse dry food. These can all be signs of tooth pain while eating.
  • Drooling – Excessive drooling can occur with a broken tooth due to bleeding in the mouth or damage to the salivary glands.
  • Facial swelling – Fractured teeth can become abscessed and infected, leading to swelling of the face around the affected tooth.
  • Bad breath – Broken tooth fragments expose the pulp cavity, allowing bacteria to multiply and cause halitosis.
  • Loose teeth – A cracked or damaged tooth may eventually become loose and more prone to falling out.
  • Bleeding from the mouth – You may notice blood on your cat’s toys after chewing or spots of blood where they eat or sleep.
  • Pawing at the face – Your cat may excessively paw at their mouth if they are experiencing oral pain.

Catching signs your cat has a broken tooth early is important to minimize pain and prevent complications. Contact your vet promptly if you notice any of the symptoms above.

Does a Broken Tooth Hurt a Cat?

Whether or not a broken tooth hurts a cat depends on the severity of the fracture and how deep it goes. A fracture that exposes the pulp cavity, where the nerves and blood vessels are located, will likely be very painful for a cat ( However, a fracture that only affects the enamel may not cause any pain. According to, immediate pain only occurs when the tooth fracture reaches the pulp cavity.

A broken tooth with an exposed pulp cavity is at high risk for developing an infection. Bacteria can enter through the fracture and infect the pulp. This will be very painful for the cat and requires immediate veterinary treatment. An infected tooth can also lead to more systemic health issues if the infection spreads. So while a minor fracture may not hurt initially, an untreated fracture can turn into a very painful tooth infection.

Other complications from a broken tooth depend on its location in the mouth. For example, a fracture on an upper canine tooth may irritate the cat’s lower eyelid. A broken premolar or molar could prevent normal chewing. So even if the fracture itself is not painful, it may still impair normal function and require treatment.

Risks of Untreated Broken Teeth

If a cat’s broken tooth is left untreated, it can lead to serious complications like infection and tooth loss. According to the VCA Animal Hospitals, the pulp cavity of the tooth is exposed when the enamel and dentin layers are cracked, which allows bacteria to invade the pulp and cause infection [1]. This infected pulp, known as a tooth root abscess, is extremely painful for cats.

As the infection worsens, the pressure builds up inside the tooth, eventually causing the tooth to die. A dead tooth will either become loose and fall out on its own or require extraction by a veterinarian to remove it. If multiple teeth are affected by abscesses, a cat may end up losing many teeth. According to Dr. Good Pet Vet, loss of teeth can impact a cat’s ability to eat and lead to malnutrition [2].

Bacteria and infection can also spread from the affected tooth to the bone around tooth roots or even into the bloodstream. This can cause systemic issues like organ damage. Stopping the infection early is critical to prevent it from spreading.

Diagnosing a Broken Tooth

If you suspect your cat has a broken tooth, the first step is to take them to the veterinarian for an exam. The vet will perform a thorough oral exam, looking for any chipped, cracked, or fractured teeth. They may see obvious damage, or the tooth may look normal but the cat is showing signs of pain when eating or biting down.

To get a closer look, the vet will likely take dental X-rays. These specialized images allow the vet to see below the surface for any unseen cracks, pulp exposure, or root damage that could be causing your cat discomfort (Rover). The X-rays will also help determine the best course of treatment if a broken tooth is diagnosed.

Other diagnostic tools the vet may use include vitality testing, which checks for signs of life in the tooth’s pulp, and probing around the gumline for sensitivity. With a thorough oral exam and dental X-rays, your vet can determine if your cat has a broken tooth and what treatment is required.

Treating a Broken Tooth

There are several treatment options for a cat’s broken tooth depending on the severity of the fracture:

Extraction – Removing the entire tooth is often the simplest and most affordable treatment. According to VCA Animal Hospitals, extraction helps eliminate pain and infection risk. The cat’s remaining teeth can shift position after an extraction, but cats adapt well and can eat normally.

Root Canal – If the pulp is exposed but the root is intact, a veterinary dentist may perform a root canal to remove the pulp and inflammation and then seal the root. This saves the tooth structure. However, root canals are technically difficult in cats and success rates vary. Cost is also much higher than extraction.

Vital Pulp Therapy – If the pulp is damaged but not exposed, the inflamed tissue can be removed and the tooth sealed and capped to allow healing. This is less invasive than a root canal.

Crown – A dental crown can restore structure and strength to a broken tooth after other repairs. But crowns require extensive reshaping of the remaining tooth and may not last long term.

According to Rover, the best option depends on factors like cost, invasiveness, long-term prognosis, and your cat’s health. Your veterinarian will advise on the optimal treatment plan for your cat’s specific broken tooth and condition.

Recovering from a Broken Tooth

After a tooth extraction or root canal, your cat will need to recover quietly for 10-14 days. Your vet will prescribe pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection while the mouth heals. Soft food will be recommended, as crunchy kibble could irritate the surgery site.

The vet may suggest mixing canned food with water to make a gruel consistency that is easy to lap up. Avoidany hard treats or toys that could re-injure the mouth. It’s important to follow all post-op instructions from your vet closely.

Your cat may experiencesome discomfort when eating or difficulty chewing for the first few days. Make sure fresh water is always available to keep your cat hydrated. Monitor the litter box for normal activity.

Signs to watch for during recovery include:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Swelling around the surgery site
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the mouth

Your vet will schedule a recheck appointment 7-10 days after surgery to examine healing. If all looks well, your cat can gradually return to its normal routine. The mouth should fully heal within 2-4 weeks.

Providing a soft food diet for 2-3 months can help the tooth socket continuing healing. Your vet will let you know when crunchy kibble can be slowly reintroduced.

With proper treatment and aftercare, most cats recover fully from a broken tooth. Be diligent about follow-up exams to ensure the mouth remains healthy.

Preventing Broken Teeth

There are several steps cat owners can take to help prevent broken teeth in their cats:

Daily dental care – Brushing your cat’s teeth daily or several times a week can remove plaque and tartar that weakens enamel over time. There are toothpastes and toothbrushes specially designed for cats that make the process easier. You can also use dental wipes or gels rubbed directly on the teeth.

Dental diet – Feeding dry food formulated for dental health can help keep teeth and gums healthy. The crunchy kibble texture scrubs the teeth to reduce plaque. There are prescription dental diets that may be recommended by your veterinarian.

Discourage chewing – Cats that chew on inappropriate objects like rocks, bones, antlers or household items risk breaking teeth. Keep these items out of reach and provide more appropriate chew toys.

Regular veterinary dental cleanings – Your vet can perform professional dental cleanings and exams to monitor your cat’s oral health. Cleanings remove tartar that brushing may not reach. Your vet can check for signs of disease and weakened enamel.

Extraction of pre-existing damaged teeth – Teeth that are already cracked or showing signs of disease are prone to further fracture. Your vet may recommend extraction to prevent breakage.

Prompt treatment of gum disease – Gingivitis and periodontal disease degrade gum and bone support for the teeth. Treating gum inflammation and infection helps maintain tooth integrity.


In summary, broken teeth are a common dental injury in cats that should not be ignored. While some minor fractures may not cause pain, most broken teeth require veterinary treatment to prevent complications. Leaving a serious fracture untreated can lead to infection, abscesses, and tooth loss. The most common signs of a broken tooth include reluctance to eat, dropping food, excessive salivation, swelling around the mouth, and bad breath. If you suspect your cat has a broken tooth, it’s essential to schedule a veterinary exam for proper diagnosis and treatment. Options range from extraction to root canals or vital pulp therapy depending on the damage. With prompt care, most cats recover well and regain their ability to comfortably eat. Preventing broken teeth involves monitoring diet, ensuring proper dental care, and redirecting harmful chewing habits. While a broken tooth can be alarming, addressing it quickly improves the outlook significantly. With an understanding of the risks and options, cat owners can support their pet’s dental health when faced with this common injury.

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