Cats, like humans, can experience teeth misalignment, a condition known as malocclusion. It occurs when a cat’s bite does not fit properly, with the top and bottom jaws not aligning neatly. While this condition can begin with the eruption of a kitten’s baby teeth, it typically worsens as their adult teeth grow in.
Understanding the Different Types of Teeth
To comprehend malocclusion better, let’s explore the different types of teeth in a cat’s mouth. Incisors are the smaller front teeth located between the canines. They are used for grasping food and keeping the tongue inside the mouth. Canines, also known as cuspids or fangs, are found behind the incisors and serve the same grasping function. Behind the canines are the premolars, which are responsible for shearing or cutting food. Finally, the molars are the last set of teeth found at the back of the mouth and are used for chewing.
Symptoms and Types of Malocclusion
Malocclusion can lead to various problems, including mouth injuries, periodontal disease, soft-tissue defects, tooth wear, and fractures. In some cases, persistent issues with the palate can result in a fistula that becomes infected. Cats with misaligned teeth may struggle with chewing, have difficulty picking up food, and often prefer larger food pieces. They are also more prone to tartar and plaque build-up.
There are several diagnosable types of malocclusion in cats, including overbite, underbite, level bite, open bite, anterior crossbite, posterior crossbite, wry mouth or bite, and base narrow canines. Overbite occurs when the upper jaw is longer than the lower one, causing a gap between the upper and lower incisors when the mouth is closed. While some kittens may naturally correct a small overbite, a cat’s bite usually sets around ten months old. In cases where the gap is significant, improvement will not happen on its own, and teeth extractions may be necessary to prevent damage to the soft parts of the mouth.
Causes of Malocclusion
Malocclusion can have various causes. It may be congenital or hereditary, resulting from a predisposition passed down through generations. Additionally, malocclusion can occur due to the failure of baby or adult teeth to erupt properly, trauma to the mouth, or delayed loss of baby teeth.
Treatment for Malocclusion
In most cases, malocclusions do not require treatment. However, if necessary, extractions may be recommended. Regular teeth brushing is essential to prevent the accumulation of tartar and plaque. If you wish to correct your cat’s teeth misalignment, your veterinarian may refer you to a dental specialist. In recent years, there have been advancements in dental care for cats, including the creation of “braces” designed to realign kittens’ teeth before they become a health issue.
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Remember, keeping your cat’s teeth healthy is crucial for their overall well-being. Regular dental check-ups and proper oral hygiene can help ensure a lifetime of happy, healthy smiles.