What Happens If My Cat’S Baby Teeth Don’T Fall Out?

The kitten teething process is a normal part of development where a kitten’s baby teeth (deciduous teeth) fall out as their permanent adult teeth grow in. Kittens are born without teeth. Around 2-4 weeks of age, their baby teeth start erupting through the gums. By around 6-8 weeks old, kittens will have all 26 of their deciduous teeth. These milk teeth or baby teeth will eventually fall out as the permanent teeth erupt. The kitten teething process typically begins around 3-4 months of age and ends by 6-7 months old when all of the adult teeth have come in.

Kitten teething can cause some discomfort, swelling, bleeding and behavioral changes as their teeth push through the gums. Providing chew toys, soft food and tooth brushing can help soothe kittens during this phase. Most kittens lose their baby teeth without issues, but in some cases deciduous teeth may not shed properly leading to potential dental problems. Monitoring your kitten’s teething and seeking veterinary care for any retained baby teeth can help prevent complications.

Primary Teeth

Kittens are born without any teeth. Around 3-4 weeks of age, they start to develop their first set of primary or deciduous teeth, also known as milk teeth or baby teeth [1]. Kittens will have a total of 26 primary teeth, including:

  • 12 incisors (front teeth used for biting and nibbling food)
  • 4 canines (“fangs” used for gripping and tearing food)
  • 10 premolars (rear teeth used for chewing and crushing food)

The primary teeth help kittens transition from nursing to eating solid food. They also hold space for the larger permanent teeth that will grow in later. Primary teeth are smaller, thinner, and sharper than permanent teeth [2].

Teething Timeline

Kittens are born without any teeth. They start getting their baby teeth (deciduous teeth) around 2-4 weeks of age. The incisors are usually the first teeth to erupt. By around 6-8 weeks old, kittens will have all their deciduous teeth. Kittens have a total of 26 deciduous teeth – 12 incisors, 4 canines and 10 premolars.

The deciduous teeth start falling out and being replaced by permanent teeth starting around 3-4 months old. The incisors are replaced first, followed by the canines and then the premolars. By around 6-7 months old, kittens should have all their adult teeth. Adult cats have a total of 30 permanent teeth – 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars and 4 molars. The molars erupt last, coming in usually between 5-7 months old.

It’s important for kittens to lose their deciduous teeth on schedule as the permanent teeth develop and push them out. If deciduous teeth don’t fall out on their own, it can lead to malocclusion and other dental issues. Monitoring your kitten’s teething timeline ensures their teeth and bite develop properly.

Sources:
https://www.petmd.com/cat/general-health/kitten-teething-guide
https://www.greencrossvets.com.au/services/kitten-teething/

Retained Deciduous Teeth

Retained deciduous teeth, also called persistent deciduous teeth, occur when a kitten’s baby teeth fail to fall out as the permanent adult teeth come in. Normally, kittens begin losing their deciduous teeth around 12-16 weeks as the permanent teeth erupt. By 6 months old, all 30 deciduous teeth should be replaced by permanent teeth. If some deciduous teeth are still present beyond 6 months, they are considered retained (petMD).

There are several potential causes of retained deciduous teeth in cats:

  • The permanent tooth is impacted, blocked from erupting fully
  • The roots of the deciduous tooth remain in the jaw after the crown falls out, preventing the permanent tooth from erupting
  • There is an abnormality in the formation or position of the permanent tooth that prevents it from erupting properly
  • There is a disorder such as cleft palate that affects the structure of the mouth and teeth
  • An injury, infection, or other issue damages the permanent tooth before it can erupt
  • Genetic or breed predisposition – some purebred cats like Persians are prone to dental issues

Retained deciduous teeth must be extracted by a veterinarian to allow the permanent teeth to erupt properly (Wagwalking). Failing to remove them can lead to malocclusion, periodontal disease, and other dental problems in cats.

Potential Problems

Retained deciduous teeth can lead to several potential problems in cats, including:

  • Malocclusion – Misalignment of the teeth and abnormal bite. This occurs because the permanent tooth coming in is blocked by the retained deciduous tooth, preventing it from erupting in the proper position. Severe malocclusion can make it difficult for the cat to chew and cause pain. According to https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/retained-deciduous-teeth-baby-teeth-in-cats[1], malocclusion is the most common complication of retained deciduous teeth.
  • Dental disease – Retained deciduous teeth do not have strong roots and tend to accumulate more tartar and plaque. This increases the risk of gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth decay. The American Veterinary Dental College notes that retained deciduous teeth often require early extraction to prevent oral disease (https://www.avdc.org/retained-deciduous-teeth/)[2].
  • Tooth loss – The permanent tooth under the retained deciduous tooth may erupt in an abnormal direction or get damaged trying to push out the deciduous tooth. This can lead to loss of the permanent tooth.
  • Damage to jaw bone – The pressure exerted by the impacted permanent tooth can damage the jaw bone and lead to osteomyelitis (bone infection).
  • Orbital disease – If the retained deciduous teeth are canines, their roots are close to the cat’s orbit and eye. Infection can spread to the orbit causing pain and eye issues.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing retained deciduous teeth in cats begins with a thorough oral examination by a veterinarian. The vet will look for any baby teeth that have not fallen out as expected. They will identify teeth that appear crowded or pushed to abnormal angles and positions by persistent deciduous teeth behind or beside them.

Retained baby teeth are often found when examining a kitten’s mouth during scheduled wellness visits. However, pet owners may spot signs of an issue first, like difficulty eating or mouth pain. In those cases, prompt veterinary examination can identify the underlying cause.

Veterinarians may also take dental x-rays to evaluate the health of the tooth roots and look for permanent teeth impacted below the gums. X-rays allow the vet to see the position of incoming permanent teeth in relation to the retained baby teeth.

Sources:
VCA Hospitals,
PetMD

Treatment

The most common treatment for retained deciduous teeth in cats is extraction of the tooth. According to PetMD, the retained deciduous tooth should be surgically removed as soon as the permanent tooth begins pushing through the gums. Extraction completely removes the tooth and allows the permanent tooth to erupt and take its place in the mouth.

In some cases, a veterinarian may try endodontic therapy on the retained tooth instead of extraction. This involves removing the tooth pulp and disinfecting the root canal. However, extraction is generally recommended over endodontic therapy for retained deciduous teeth, as it fully removes the tooth and prevents further issues.

Cats usually recover well from extraction of retained deciduous teeth. Pain medication may be prescribed for a few days following the procedure. Proper aftercare, such as soft food diet and monitoring the extraction site, can aid healing.

Prevention

There are some steps cat owners can take to help prevent retained deciduous teeth in kittens:

Provide chew toys: Giving kittens appropriate chew toys helps naturally loosen baby teeth and exercise the gums. Toys like rubber teething toys can be helpful.

Monitor diet: Feeding a diet with the right balance of nutrients supports healthy tooth development. Kittens need a high-protein diet to support growth. Consulting a veterinarian can ensure the kitten is getting proper nutrition.

Regular dental exams: A veterinarian should examine the kitten’s mouth during routine wellness exams, which allows early detection of any issues. The vet can monitor tooth eruption and growth.

Extract early if needed: If a retained deciduous tooth is identified early, a vet may recommend extracting it to allow the permanent tooth to properly erupt. Early removal prevents complications.

The key is close monitoring of kitten teeth development and dental health. With attentive care from owners and vets, retained deciduous teeth may be avoidable.

Outlook

The prognosis for a cat with retained deciduous teeth is generally good if the condition is treated properly. However, if left untreated, retained baby teeth can lead to potentially serious complications.

With treatment, which involves extraction of the retained deciduous teeth, the prognosis is excellent. Once the baby teeth are removed, the permanent adult teeth will usually erupt into proper position and alignment. The cat’s bite and chewing ability will return to normal. Prompt treatment prevents damage to the permanent teeth and leads to a good long-term prognosis.

Without treatment, the retained deciduous teeth will continue to disrupt the proper eruption and alignment of permanent teeth. This can lead to malocclusion, periodontal disease, and dental abnormalities. The baby teeth can also become loose or infected. Overall dental health will deteriorate, which can negatively impact the cat’s quality of life. The longer treatment is delayed, the poorer the prognosis becomes. Thus, prompt extraction of retained deciduous teeth is crucial for a good outcome.

When to Seek Help

It’s important to monitor your kitten’s teething process and be aware of any potential issues. Contact your veterinarian if you notice any of the following:

  • Your kitten is over 6 months old and still has visible baby teeth
  • Permanent teeth are coming in the wrong position or at odd angles
  • Teeth are overcrowded or misaligned
  • Baby teeth are not loosening or falling out around 4-6 months as expected
  • There is inflammation, swelling, or discharge around the gums
  • Your kitten has difficulty eating dry food or seems to be in pain when chewing
  • There are retained root tips from baby teeth still lodged in the jaw

Your vet will likely want to perform an oral exam and may take x-rays to evaluate the teeth. Early extraction of retained deciduous teeth can prevent long-term dental health issues. It’s best to have your vet assess the situation rather than waiting and hoping retained teeth will eventually fall out on their own.

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