It’s never too early to start looking after your kitten’s teeth. A regular brushing routine can help prevent tooth decay and gum problems in the future.
What are "milk teeth"?
At around 3 weeks old, your kitten’s "baby teeth" or "milk teeth" (i.e. primary teeth) will start having more functionality. As the kittens start eating solid food, they also begin learning how to hunt and catch prey, and how to play/fight with siblings. As the kitten grows, so does their jaw size, and the necessity for stronger and larger teeth becomes apparent. Hence, the baby teeth are naturally replaced by permanent ones when the jaw reaches its adult size, resulting in your cat losing teeth.
The duration of this process can vary from kitten to kitten, but tooth loss generally starts at about 3 months of age and ends around 9 months. This process is stimulated by biting toys and engaging in play/fighting with other kittens.
What should be done to care for my kitten over this period?
- Be careful and gentle when playing with your kitten, avoiding pulling toys from their mouth.
- Avoid brushing their teeth during this time.
- Feed them wet food to facilitate ingestion without chewing, or soften their dry kibbles with water.
Keeping your kitten's teeth clean and healthy
Eight out of ten cats over the age of three have tooth and gum problems. This is why it’s a good idea to establish a cleaning routine early in your pet’s life.
The first step is to get kittens used to the gentle handling of the face and teeth. Run a soft brush or rubber fingertip applicator across her teeth regularly so she becomes accustomed to the contact and taste.
Once she’s comfortable with this routine, discuss with your vet if she’s ready for brushing. Never brush milk teeth!
When you get the okay, begin by washing your hands and pulling back her lips. Apply the bristles to the teeth at a 45-degree angle and use small circular motions on the outside surfaces. Start slowly and use special pet toothpaste in tasty flavors. Kittens tend to accumulate plaque on the outside of their teeth rather than the inside, so be sure to brush carefully here!
It’s important to get rid of plaque as it hardens to form tartar, irritating the gums and causing gingivitis and loss of teeth. Unclean teeth can negatively impact many areas of your kitten’s health, as bacteria can even enter the bloodstream and damage the kidneys and other organs.