If your adult cat has a decidedly gap-toothed smile -- in other words, he's lost some chompers -- he's not alone. Many cats lose a tooth or two over the course of their lives. While feline tooth loss is common, it's not normal. It's the result of injury or infection.
If your adult cat's teeth are falling out, take a trip to the veterinarian to find out what's wrong. Even if only one tooth has fallen out, don't risk Kitty's health. Get him checked out.
Like people, cats have baby teeth. They develop when the kitten is around 4 weeks to 6 weeks old. Also like people, cats lose their baby teeth. Their adult teeth -- thirty total, made up of incisors, premolars, canines and molars -- should grow in by the time they're 6 months old. These adult teeth are permanent. Cats should not lose any of them.
There are two main culprits for tooth loss: injury and diet. That's right. Diet. Assuming your cat didn't sustain a dental injury, if he's losing teeth, it's probably because of what he's eating. Unlike dogs or humans, cats don't have true grinding surfaces on their teeth. Their natural diet consists of meat, not dry food or canned. And, contrary to popular belief, regular dry food does not clean a cat's teeth. The buildup of canned or dry food on the teeth leads to dental illnesses, such as periodontal disease, gingivitis and odontoclastic resorptive lesions.
The buildup of food on cats' teeth leads to periodontal disease, gingivitis and odontoclastic resorptive lesions, but what exactly does that mean? Periodontal disease occurs when food collects around the teeth and gums. Combined with bacteria, it forms plaque, which in turn becomes tartar. Tartar gets into the gums and becomes inflamed. At this point, the gums can draw back and separate from the teeth. The gums become tender and develop pockets of infection. And then the teeth fall out. There's no way to reverse the damage -- if the affected teeth don't fall out on their own, they should be surgically removed. Poor kitty!
Gingivitis occurs before full-blown periodontal disease -- it's the first inflammation of the gums. Treatment is still possible at this point, so don't hesitate to visit a vet if you suspect it's a problem. Meanwhile, odontoclastic resorptive lesions develop because of plaque and can lead to permanent damage to the infected tooth.
Want to keep your cat from needing a trip to the kitty dentist? Brush his teeth every day. It may seem weird or a good way to get scratched, but it's the only way to ensure your favorite feline's teeth and gums stay healthy. A yearly cleaning at the veterinarian's office can also help keep plaque and tartar at bay. If you really want to help your cat's chompers, ask the veterinarian about feeding tartar-reducing food.