Newborn kittens are totally helpless and dependent upon their mother for food, protection and warmth. They are born blind, deaf, and toothless. In the first couple of weeks of development, they begin to open their eyes, the ears unfold and the kitten is able to hear, and their sense of smell is developing. By the third week, baby teeth are starting to show and by six weeks they have all of their deciduous teeth, commonly known as primary, baby or milk teeth. Kitten teething can be a painful time with mouth and gum discomfort, but you and your kitten can get through it with toys, patience, and understanding.
Incisors in the front of the mouth are the first ones you will see at around two weeks of age. Canine teeth come in at four weeks, and premolars are showing at six weeks. Kitten teeth are like tiny needles, which is one reason why mama cat begins to wean her kittens at five to six weeks. In total, kittens have 26 teeth – three upper and lower incisors, one upper and lower canine, and three upper and lower premolars on each side of their mouth.
At around 11 to 12 weeks, the baby teeth begin to fall out and permanent teeth are starting to come in. At four months, all of the incisors have come in, four canine teeth follow at around five months, 10 premolars come in at around six months, and four molars finally emerge. All of her 30 adult teeth should be in by the time your kitten is six to nine months old. Adult cats have three upper and lower incisors, one upper and lower canine, three upper and lower premolars, and one upper and one lower molar on each side of their jaw. However, the molars aren’t like ours or dogs and don’t have a grinding surface to break food down. Feline teeth are made for catching and tearing small pieces of flesh from their prey and swallowing it whole.
When the baby teeth are falling out, you might find a tooth stuck in a blanket, rug, or toy. Sometimes you never find a tooth because the kitten swallowed it, which is perfectly normal and not anything to be concerned about. This is also the time when your kitten can have sore gums or a loose tooth that’s bothering him. If you notice your kitten pawing at her mouth or not eating, it could be a loose tooth or sore gums that’s keeping her from chowing down. Teething can be a touchy time for kittens and some might be a bit irritable during this period. Be careful not to jerk toys from her mouth when playing with her, and provide soft wet food that doesn’t require her to crunch down on it. Some kittens go through the process of teething without showing any discomfort at all. The best time to begin brushing your kitten’s teeth is unfortunately during the time when they are teething. However, good dental practices helps to prevent health issues later on. So, it’s important to take it slow when brushing, be gentle, and recognize when your kitten may be experiencing tooth or gum pain.
Adult teeth develop from tooth buds, and as the teeth grow, they push against the roots of the baby teeth which tells the body to begin absorbing the roots of the baby teeth. As the adult tooth gets bigger, the root of the baby tooth weakens and eventually disappears. The only thing left is the crown and when the adult tooth pushes through the gum, it pushes the crown of the baby tooth out. Sometimes a kitten or puppy can have a baby tooth where the root hasn’t been absorbed completely, or not at all. This is a condition called retained deciduous teeth and means a baby tooth didn’t fall out and the permanent tooth is forced to grow at an angle. This can cause pain and crowding of the other teeth. It may be necessary to have the baby tooth removed by a vet which will allow the adult tooth to align itself properly. To make sure the teeth are coming in like they are suppose to, it’s a good idea to have your vet check your kitten’s teeth at six to eight months.
During the teething stage, your kitten may chew on anything and everything she can find, including you. Electrical wires, computer cords, wood, or other unhealthy or dangerous items. You can help her get through teething by providing toys covered in fabric, a small blanket to chew on, hard rubber toys, or teething toys and rings made specifically for kittens. A cardboard box is an inexpensive way to give your kitten some relief. Leave the flaps on the box and sit it on the floor for your kitty to attack and chew on her own time. Another homemade “toy” is a loosely rolled up wet washcloth that’s been wrung out and frozen.
One of the best ways you can help your kitten get through teething is to make sure she gets plenty of exercise and playtime. Playing with your kitty is how you build a strong bond and earn her trust.
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