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Dental Fun Facts and Knowledge Nuggets

  • An adult cat with all his or her teeth has 30 teeth.
  • Kittens lose their baby teeth at 14 weeks old.
  • Cats do not need any teeth to eat. They even can eat dry kibble without any teeth!
  • A cat's "fang" teeth (canine teeth)  have only 1 root. Cats have 2 teeth with 3 roots - the fourth upper premolars on the left and right sides. These serve as the main shearing tooth in all carnivores.
  • Cats have 3 sets of incisor teeth (12 teeth total). People have only 2 sets (8 teeth).
  • Dental evaluation is a critical component of a cat's regular visit to the veterinarian.
  • Much dental disease occurs below the gumline, thus only is found once the cat is under general anesthesia when the gum and gingiva are probed and X-rays are taken.
  • With the exception of diets specifically formulated to promote dental health (prevention of gingivitis and tartar build-up), dry food diets play little, if any, role in preventing dental disease in cats. (Cat teeth are designed to tear prey, not chew it!)
  • Cats have the fewest teeth of all common domestic animals.
  • 70% of cats over 3 years of age suffer from periodontal disease.
  • Yes, you can brush your cat's teeth!
  • The single biggest cause of tooth damage and tooth loss is periodontal disease (disease that affects the periodontium, or bone, connective tissue and gum surrounding and supporting a tooth). Plaque- or tartar-induced inflammation is the major factor leading to periodontal disease in cats.
  • Pain management is critical for a cat with periodontal disease.
  • Tooth resorptions (resorptive lesions) are the most common tooth-related problems cats encounter unrelated to tartar or gum disease. Resorptive lesions are characterized by the destruction and resorption of teeth by specialized cells called odontoclasts. In animals and in people, these odontoclast cells cause the resorption of the roots of baby teeth to allow for adult teeth to erupt. In cats, however, these odontoclast cells also are sometimes inexplicably triggered to dissolve the enamel of adult teeth, which is very painful and different from the cavities that occur in people.  Their cause is unknown, yet 60% of all cats have resorptive lesions at some point during their lives.
  • General anesthesia is required to properly clean a cat's teeth and comprehensively examine a cat's mouth. Scraping a cat's teeth in an exam room while the cat is awake is not adequate treatment and may cause more harm than good.
  • Some cats require dental work every few months while some cats can go for years without dental work. Several intrinsic factors that can lead to dental disease include your cat's mouth chemistry, breed, genetics and the presence of specific diseases (such as feline leukemia virus, feline immunodeficiency virus and diabetes).

Note: Detailed articles about dental disease, dentistry, anesthesia and periodontal surgery can be found in our online library.

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