Commit to a routine dental check-up


Joan Henderson
Your adorable kitty needs the right care and routine treatment to keep her pearly white intact.
The adult cat has thirty teeth. They have six sharp little incisors on the top jaw and six ones on the lower jaw. On either side of the incisors they have big tusk teeth—four in all. These are called canine teeth, but I don’t think it’s meant as an insult. Then there’s a little toothless gap. Behind the gap lie the premolars—three premolars on each side of the upper jaw and two on each side of the lower jaw. Behind the premolars lies the single molar.
Some cats only have twenty-eight teeth because two of the premolars in their upper jaw don’t develop. Cats use their teeth to fight, to bite, and sometimes to kill. They just want to get the stuff down to swallowable hunks.
Felines & their sharpies
Unlike horses, you can’t tell the age of a cat by her teeth, but some people will take aguess by her condition. Cats on a soft sloppy diet will start to get mucky looking teeth full of tartar at four or five years of age. A stray cat living by her wits on the roads may have chipped some of his teeth down to the gum line by the time he’s six years old.
To help your cat retain her teeth in shining order well into old age, don’t feed her a steady diet of sloppy food. Give her odd chunk of meat that she’s really got to work on chewing. You can also ask your vet about kibble that’ll suit your cat.
Allow her some of those very hard biscuits made especially for cats. Examine your cat’s mouth every few months to see if tartar is accumulating. Sometimes she will show no symptoms except for foul breath. Sometimes the poison from a rotting tooth will erupt into a very painful abscess. If you notice your cat purring in pain, or pawing around her teeth, take her to the vet immediately. They vet will probably administer a general anaesthetic and locate the offending tooth or teeth and get them out, or prescribe antibiotics and painkillers.
Deep roots, deeper pain
The strongest and most useful tooth in the cat’s mouth is the big premolar in the upperjaw. It has three deep roots and is difficult to extract. If you’ve ever had a root canal extraction, then you know what all this is about. What you may think is a simple extraction is more like a minor operation. Don’t be surprised if your veterinarian asks you to bring the cat back for three antibiotic injections.
If your cat has had one bout of tooth trouble you can be almost certain that she’s in for more trouble. Take her back to see the vet in every three months for routine dental check-up.
A slight tooth pain and you feel baffled! Imagine what your kitty must be going through. Be patient with her, seek medical help from your vet, and shower some extra love and it’ll all be fine.
(Joan Henderson is a retired international cat judge based in Melbourne, Australia)