When it comes to dental care, cats aren't as likely to get treatment as their canine counterparts. This is often because cats are better at hiding pain and because there are so many misconceptions about their behavior. Because it's National Pet Dental Health Month, here are some fascinating facts about the feline mouth
Cats have 26 baby teeth and 30 permanent teeth. For comparison, humans have 20 baby teeth and 32 permanent teeth, and dogs have 28 baby teeth and 42 permanent teeth. With proper care, your cat’s permanent teeth will last their entire life.
A cat's teeth are designed for hunting. Their teeth are shaped for shearing and tearing through prey, like their wild jungle cousins. The long front teeth, referred to as 'fangs', are designed to puncture and subdue prey. Now you know why those playful bites hurt so much!
Cats have specialized teeth. Those tiny front teeth in the feline mouth, set between the two longer canines, are specially designed for grooming and lifting objects. Some cats will even use these teeth to chew on their claws and remove their loose nails.
Cats don't get 'cavities' - but they are prone to other dental problems. Cavities form on the horizontal surfaces of teeth; due to the shape of your cat's teeth, they don't get what we call cavities. They do develop dental 'caries' which cause tooth decay. Periodontal disease, gingivostomatitis, plaque, tartar and oral cancer are all painful oral health diseases that are common for cats.
Feline tooth resorption is a condition in which the cat's body begins breaking down and absorbing the structures that form the tooth. The process usually starts in the enamel along the gum line and continues towards the center of the tooth. Eventually, the tooth will be almost entirely gone, leaving only a raised bump on the gums. This excruciating condition is thought to affect around 40% of adult cats. Because many owners simply don’t know how to recognize its symptoms, cats don’t always receive the prompt treatment they need.
Cats rarely show dental pain. Our cats retain their ancestor's instinct to protect themselves by hiding pain. Detecting a problem in your cat's mouth and getting them immediate help will often depend on your awareness of any changes in their behavior. Noticing, red and swollen gums, bad breath, loss of appetite, and drooling can be the first sign that something is wrong. It's important to note that many cats will show no symptoms whatsoever, making regular wellness care critical for preventing dental pain.
Tooth brushing is good for cats. It may take a lot of patience, but a cat can be trained to tolerate brushing - and your Brook Farm family is happy to help show you how. Brushing works best on teeth that are clean, so start when your cat is a kitten, and be consistent between check ups and veterinary cleanings.
There are special toothbrushes and toothpastes just for kitty. Never use human products in your cat's mouth. Feline teeth can be fragile so the right brush matters. Human toothpaste contains chemicals that are toxic to a cat's liver and kidneys. At your next wellness visit, ask your Brook Farm vet for a recommendation for your cat's teeth.
Feline dental disease is called the quiet killer. By staying alert to any changes in your cat's mood and behaviors, by getting them to regular wellness check ups, your loving care can help prevent their suffering in silence.