Did you know that your kitten has baby teeth, or as the medical experts call them, deciduous teeth? Did you know that they fall out just like a human child’s do? This can be a little perplexing, but it is normal.
Kittens are born with no teeth at all, and their first teeth start to make an appearance at around two weeks of age. The incisors at the front of the mouth are usually the first teeth to come through, and they may look a little see-through, which gave rise to the name ‘milk teeth.’ By the time they are six weeks old, they should have all 26 of their baby teeth, which will all fall out and be replaced by the permanent teeth.
The baby teeth are very sharp and cause the mother discomfort when nursing. This is one of the indications that the kittens should start being weaned. Kittens should be fed solid food that fits with the teeth they are growing, so if you have been bottle-feeding them, now is the time to start cutting back.
As with all animals, kittens vary as to when they start losing their milk teeth and growing the permanent teeth that they will have for the rest of their lives. Usually, the baby teeth will begin to drop out when the kitten reaches the age of three months and should be finished by around nine months of age.
The permanent set of teeth begin life as tiny tooth buds that can be found in the jaw of the kitten. As these buds develop into proper teeth, they push against the roots of the baby teeth and eventually absorb these roots. The baby teeth then fall out and are replaced by the permanent teeth.
The kitten’s first permanent teeth should come through at around 11 weeks, followed by the incisors at four months, the canines at five months, the premolars at six months and then the permanent molars during adulthood.
If you notice that your kitten seems hesitant to play a game where she has to pull with her teeth, you notice her gums are sore or you see that she is drooling a little bit, you can be pretty sure that she is starting to teethe.
To help the kitten through this process, make sure the food you give her is soft and comfortable to eat, avoid playing games that involve her pulling with her teeth and avoid brushing her teeth at this time. Like with a human baby, you can expect your kitten to feel a little irritable at this time, so it will need some patient handling over this period.
You may find the kitten’s baby teeth in a toy or stuck in the carpet, but many baby teeth are swallowed by the cat. This is not harmful to the animal. The cat’s gums will heal quickly after the loss of a baby tooth, and when the permanent teeth grow in, you will see that they are much denser, whiter and brighter than the baby teeth.
Sometimes, the baby teeth do not fall out, resulting in a condition called ‘retained deciduous teeth.’ The most common teeth for this to happen with is the canines, and if this happens, the vet should be able to resolve the issue by removing the baby teeth. This is done to prevent breakage of the baby teeth and the resultant infection but also to ensure that the permanent teeth grow correctly.
It is a good idea to get your kitten used to having her teeth cleaned. If an excellent dental routine is established early, you will be able to prevent plaque buildup and avoid the general anesthetic required to have them professionally cleaned.