Do Cats Lose Their Baby Teeth?

By Norma Roche

Your kitten will normally have lost her deciduous or baby teeth by 7 months of age. She has 26 baby teeth that are replaced by 30 permanent or adult teeth. It's important to know what's happening during teething, as baby teeth don't always fall out. If you spot a retained deciduous tooth -- a baby tooth still in the kitten's mouth after the adult tooth has erupted -- contact your veterinarian, as retained teeth can cause dental problems.

Baby Teeth Timetable

Your kitten is born without teeth. Around 3 weeks old, her baby teeth start erupting through the gums. The 12 incisors -- the small teeth at the front -- and the four fang-like teeth, called canines, erupt between 3 to 4 weeks of age. From 4 to 6 weeks old, the four bottom premolars, located at the side and back of her mouth, come through. By 8 weeks of age, the six top premolars should have erupted and your kitten usually will have all her baby teeth. These tiny needle-pointed teeth look slightly translucent and are more fragile than adult teeth.

Adult Teeth Timetable

Your kitten starts teething when she's about 3 months old. Her deciduous incisors are replaced by permanent teeth between 3 1/2 to 5 1/2 months old. The adult premolars erupt at about 4 1/2 months and the canine permanent teeth at 5 1/2 to 6 1/2 months. Between 5 to 6 months of age, your kitten gets four extra teeth, two at the top and two at the bottom, called molars. At 6 to 7 months old, all of your kitten's baby teeth normally will have been replaced by 30 permanent teeth.

What Happens During Teething

During teething, it's common for a kitten to have smelly breath and swollen, red gums. She might start chewing on things, and even be reluctant to eat where her mouth is tender. This is caused by the adult teeth developing in the jaw and pressing on the roots of the baby teeth. The pressure, stimulates the kitten's body to start absorption -- dissolving -- of the baby tooth roots. The roots weaken and disappear, so only the crowns or visible part of the teeth are left. The crowns drop out as the permanent teeth push through the gum. You may notice the odd tooth in your kitten's bedding or on the floor. Most of them will fall out when she's eating and be swallowed with her food.

Problems Caused By Retained Deciduous Teeth

Some deciduous roots fail to dissolve. The adult tooth still erupts, but it's forced to come through at the wrong angle, or in the wrong position, because it has to share the same socket as the retained baby tooth. The upper canine teeth are most likely to be retained, but any tooth can be affected. Retained teeth can cause a number of problems. Food, trapped between the crowded teeth, may lead to tooth decay, tartar deposits and periodontal disease, all of which can result in your cat prematurely losing teeth. Malpositioned teeth can make chewing difficult and weaken other teeth by rubbing on them. They may cause painful sores if they dig into the gums or roof of the mouth. Occasionally, even the growth and development of the jawbones are affected. If a root is only partly resorbed, it can become infected.

Treatment For Retained Deciduous Teeth

Up to about 8 months of age, it's a good idea to check your kitten's mouth on a weekly basis. If you notice any retained teeth, make an appointment with a veterinarian straightaway. He usually will extract a retained baby tooth if it looks as though it won't fall out normally, taking care not to damage the adult tooth's root. If a retained tooth is extracted early on, the adult tooth generally will move back into its correct position.