The teeth are important structures in cats. They serve a number of pur- poses: prehension (grasping and holding food), mastication (chewing food) and as weapons for killing prey and for biting veterinarians. (I speak from experience.) I’ve compiled all you need to know about your cat’s teeth into
this easy-to-read primer.
1/Kittens are born toothless. At 1 to 2 weeks of age, the deciduous teeth (better known as “baby
teeth”) erupt through the gums. By
6 weeks of age, all 26 baby teeth are
present. At 4 to 5 months of age, the
baby teeth begin falling out. By 6
months of age, all 30 adult teeth are
fully erupted. These teeth include 12
tiny incisors in front, four “fangs” (the
upper and lower canine teeth), 10
pre-molars and four molars.
2/ Each tooth sits in a socket in the bone of the upper jaw
(maxilla) or lower jaw (mandible).
3/The tooth is held firmly in place by the periodontal ligament, which attaches the tooth to
the surrounding gums.
4/The part of the tooth that is visible is the crown. Below
the gums is where you’ll find the
roots. The point at which the
crown and the root meet is the
neck of the tooth.
5/Each tooth consists of three parts: the pulp cavity, dentine
and enamel. The pulp cavity lies in
the center of the tooth. This is where
the nerves and blood vessels are
found. Surrounding the pulp is dentine, a hard, sensitive substance that
protects the pulp. The outer layer is
the enamel, a very hard, mineralized
substance that covers the crown.
Enamel contains no nerves and is not
6/Dental disease is one of the most common problems
encountered in veterinary medicine.
It can lead to bad breath, drooling,
loose teeth, bleeding gums and difficulty eating. If untreated, diseases
of the teeth and gums are not only
painful for the cat, but they may lead
to other oral or systemic problems.
BY DR. ARNOLD PLOTNICK
7/ Because cats are secretive by nature, it can be difficult for
a cat owner to know for sure if a cat
is experiencing dental or oral pain.
Sometimes, a cat will reveal that his
mouth is hurting by:
pawing at the mouth
turning his head to one side
when he eats, to avoid chewing
on the side that’s painful
stopping eating dry food and
only eating wet food. (We often
mistake this as being “finicky”
when in actuality, he wants to eat
dry food, but he can’t because
it has become painful to crunch
8/ The most common dental dis- order is periodontal disease,
an inflammation of the tissues surrounding the teeth. Periodontal disease is caused by plaque that adheres
to the tooth surface. Plaque causes
gingivitis, an inflammation of the
gums. As the gingivitis progresses, the
gums and the underlying bony tissues
are affected, and periodontal disease
develops. Cats may develop receding
gums and loss of bone that surround
the teeth. Infection of the bone
(osteomyelitis) can develop, as can
oral abscesses. These conditions are
painful. Plaque eventually becomes
mineralized and turns into tartar (also
called calculus). Calculus requires
mechanical removal, under general
anesthesia, by your veterinarian.
9/ Tooth resorption is a com- mon dental problem in cats.
Some cats develop erosions in their
teeth, especially at the neck of the
tooth. Although it’s tempting to call
these “cavities,” they’re not caused
by bacterial enzymes and decay, so
they aren’t. Rather, they are the result
of the cat’s own body reabsorbing
the teeth. In the early stages, most
affected cats appear unbothered by
them, but as the erosion progresses
Sink Your Teeth
Into These 10
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