Why Is My 5 Year Old Cat Losing Teeth?

Normal Teeth Loss in Cats

Cats have 30 adult teeth that emerge between 3-6 months old. Kittens lose their baby teeth just like kids do. According to Hill’s Pet Nutrition, most kittens start teething around 3 weeks old and continue until they reach 6 months old when all their adult teeth have come in. Typically kittens will have lost all their baby teeth by the time they are 6 months old.

As the permanent adult teeth erupt, the roots of the baby teeth dissolve and the teeth fall out on their own. Usually the incisors (the small teeth at the front) fall out first followed by the canines. The molars (large teeth at the back) are usually the last to come out as the adult molars emerge. Kittens may chew and bite more during this teething phase. It’s important not to confuse normal teething behavior with aggression.

You can help a teething kitten by providing safe chew toys and being patient during this developmental phase. It’s also a good idea to feed wet food to reduce discomfort. Most kittens handle teething without issues but see the vet if you have any concerns about lost teeth, retained baby teeth, or signs of gum pain.

According to the Mountainaire Animal Clinic, the full sequence of kitten teething is:

– Incisors come in around 3-4 weeks old

– Canines come in around 5-6 weeks old

– Premolars come in around 6-8 weeks old

– Molars come in around 5-7 months old

So in summary, kittens lose their baby teeth and get their adult teeth between 3-6 months of age, with complete adult dentition by 6-9 months old.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is very common in cats, especially as they age. It begins with gingivitis, which is inflammation of the gums caused by plaque buildup on the teeth. As plaque accumulates, it hardens into tartar. The bacteria in plaque irritate the gums and cause infection. Over time, this can lead to periodontitis, where the infection spreads deeper below the gumline and destroys the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Left untreated, periodontitis causes painful loose teeth and eventual tooth loss (1). Periodontal disease is estimated to affect up to 70% of cats over age 3 (2). While genetics play a role, poor oral hygiene is the main cause. Regular dental cleanings help prevent plaque buildup. Signs of periodontal disease include bad breath, red and inflamed gums, bleeding from the mouth, and loose or lost teeth.

Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption is a common condition in cats where the body breaks down tooth structure. It occurs when odontoclasts (cells that break down tooth structure) become overactive and excessive tooth destruction occurs [1]. The cause is not known, but may be related to inflammation in the mouth. Over time, resorption cavities form in the teeth which weaken their structure. Eventually, chronic resorption can cause teeth to fracture and require extraction.

Tooth resorption usually begins at the root or neck of the tooth rather than at the crown. It can be a painful condition for cats as the process exposes sensitive dentin and nerve tissue inside the tooth. Resorption also allows bacteria to invade the tooth, resulting in infection. Multiple teeth are often affected at the same time.

Treatment involves extraction of severely affected teeth. Milder cases may be managed by regular dental cleanings and antimicrobial rinses. There are no proven methods to prevent tooth resorption, but keeping up with routine dental care and preventing periodontal disease may help reduce the risk.

Dental Fractures

Dental fractures in cats commonly occur from trauma, such as falling, accidents or animal attacks. Fractures can range from a small chip to a complete break of the tooth. According to vcahospitals.com, a fractured tooth “will be painful and may eventually abscess or become infected.” While small chips may not require treatment, larger fractures expose the pulp cavity and nerves and require veterinary care.

Fractures often lead to tooth loss if left untreated. As explained in the article Everything You Need to Know About Your Cat’s Broken Tooth, fractures that expose the pulp cavity can become infected and cause extensive damage. Treatment may involve root canal therapy, vital pulp therapy to maintain the tooth, or extraction. Prompt veterinary attention is important to manage pain, prevent abscesses and infection, and preserve the tooth if possible.


Stomatitis is a serious inflammatory condition that affects a cat’s mouth and causes significant tooth loss. It involves inflammation of the soft tissues in the mouth, including the gums, tongue, lips, and throat (Source). The exact cause is unknown, but it is an autoimmune disorder, meaning the cat’s immune system attacks its own oral tissues. It can be an extremely painful disease and severely impacts a cat’s quality of life.

Stomatitis typically develops in middle-aged to older cats between 3-10 years old. Early signs include excessive salivation, bad breath, and difficulty eating. As the inflammation worsens, ulcers, redness, and bleeding occurs in the mouth. Cats often drool, paw at their mouth, shake their head, and refuse to eat. Severe tooth loss usually develops as the inflammatory process damages tissues around the teeth. Research shows stomatitis is a progressive disease that often leads to full mouth tooth extractions in order to treat the condition (Source).

Treatment involves a multipronged approach of medication, special diets, dental cleaning, and tooth extraction. Controlling inflammation and pain are the priorities. Antibiotics, steroids, and other immunosuppressive drugs help reduce swelling and discomfort. Soft food is essential to allow eating. Full mouth tooth extractions are frequently required to stop the disease from attacking oral structures and causing tooth loss. With aggressive treatment, the inflammation can resolve and cats often make a full recovery.

Kidney Disease

Kidney disease is frequently linked to dental issues in cats, and can be both a cause and consequence of tooth loss and oral ulcers. As the kidneys fail, they are unable to filter out toxins from the bloodstream. This allows bacteria from gum disease to enter the bloodstream and further damage the kidneys. Additionally, kidney failure leads to an accumulation of toxins in the mouth that contribute to gum inflammation, tooth decay, and mouth ulcers.

According to one study published in the Journal of Feline Medicine and Surgery, cats with kidney disease were 3 times more likely to have stomatitis and other oral lesions than healthy cats (1). The inflammation can become so severe that cats stop eating due to mouth pain. Another study found the risk of kidney disease increased in cats with periodontal disease compared to cats with healthy gums (2).

Therefore, poor dental health and kidney disease have a cyclical relationship, with each condition worsening the other over time. Catching and treating dental issues early is important to prevent kidney damage in cats.


Diabetes is another potential cause of tooth loss in cats. Uncontrolled diabetes often leads to increased infections, including mouth infections that can cause periodontal disease. According to research, cats with diabetes are 15 times more likely to have tooth loss than cats without diabetes. The increased risk is likely due to higher susceptibility to infections and periodontal disease. As per the Cornell Feline Health Center, diabetes is associated with more severe dental disease in cats.

Therefore, uncontrolled diabetes mellitus can lead to severe mouth infections, periodontal disease, and eventual tooth loss in cats. Proper management of diabetes, including insulin therapy and blood sugar monitoring, is important to minimize infection risks and prevent rapid tooth loss.


Oral cancer, though rare, can lead to tooth loss in cats. One of the most common oral cancers in cats is squamous cell carcinoma, which develops in the tissues lining the mouth. These cancerous tumors often appear as swellings or masses on the gums, tongue, palate, or tonsils. As the tumors grow, they can infiltrate the bone and cause degradation, leading to loose teeth that eventually fall out.

Oral cancer may also lead to trouble eating, drooling, foul breath, and other concerning symptoms. Early detection and treatment is key to management. Treatment options include surgery, radiation therapy, chemotherapy, and sometimes full mouth tooth extractions. Even with aggressive treatment, oral cancer often carries a grave prognosis in cats. Preventative dental care and promptly addressing any oral masses can help reduce risks.


Diagnosis of tooth loss or dental disease in cats usually begins with a complete oral examination under general anesthesia. The veterinarian will check for visible signs like plaque, tartar buildup, gingivitis, receding gums, and loose or infected teeth.

Intraoral radiographs (x-rays) can help detect hidden dental disease below the gumline that is not visible upon an initial exam. X-rays allow veterinarians to evaluate the health of the tooth roots and look for signs of infection or tooth resorption. Blood work may also be recommended to check for issues like kidney disease that can be associated with dental disease.

Other diagnostic tests can include a dental probe to assess gum pockets around each tooth and tooth mobility, along with dental charting to map the health of each tooth in the mouth. Biopsies may be taken of abnormal oral tissue. With a thorough dental exam and diagnostic testing, veterinarians can determine the cause and extent of any dental issues.

Sources: https://vcahospitals.com/know-your-pet/dental-disease-in-cats,


Treatment for cat tooth loss depends on the underlying cause. If periodontal disease is the culprit, a dental cleaning and tooth extraction may be necessary. Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat or prevent infection. Underlying illnesses like kidney disease, diabetes, or cancer may also need to be managed. Here are some common treatment approaches:

Tooth extraction – If periodontal disease, tooth resorption, or dental fractures have damaged the tooth beyond repair, extraction is usually the best option. Leaving damaged teeth in the mouth can lead to infection and pain.

Antibiotics – Antibiotics may be prescribed to treat an existing infection related to tooth loss or as a preventative measure after an extraction. Antibiotics can help manage infection and allow healing.

Treatment of underlying illness – If a condition like kidney disease, diabetes or cancer is causing tooth loss, treating the underlying disease is important. Proper management of these illnesses can slow dental deterioration.

Pain medication – Pain relievers may be used short-term to keep a cat comfortable before, during or after extraction procedures or if stomatitis is present.

Regular dental cleanings – For cats with periodontal disease, regular professional cleanings can treat disease, prevent infection, and minimize tooth loss over time.

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