What is Retained Deciduous Teeth?
Retained deciduous teeth occur when the roots of certain deciduous teeth, usually the canines, incisors, or premolars, do not resorb fully or at all. This results in adult teeth that must share their sockets with deciduous teeth, causing the adult teeth to grow in behind, in front of, or beside the deciduous teeth. These adult teeth often grow in at abnormal angles and positions, resulting in malocclusion, which can be one or a number of teeth misalignments. Retained deciduous teeth can also cause crowding, malformed jaws, early loss of adult teeth, pain, and numerous other dental health problems. It is extremely important that a kitten’s teeth be examined by a veterinarian, especially if it appears to you that the cat’s deciduous teeth have been retained. An adult cat that appears to have retained one or more deciduous teeth must also be immediately examined by a veterinarian.
A cat will have two full sets of teeth in its life. The first set, which is called the deciduous or baby teeth, consists of 26 teeth that begin coming in when a kitten is approximately three weeks old, a process that continues until around four months of age. The transition from deciduous teeth to permanent adult teeth begins soon after the deciduous teeth have come in, usually around four to seven months old. The permanent teeth erupt, or push through, into the same sockets that hold the deciduous teeth. When this process occurs normally, the roots of the deciduous teeth are resorbed and as the roots weaken and then disappear altogether. The deciduous teeth fall out as hollow shells. Sometimes these shells will be found sticking out of a chew toy or on the cat’s bed. It is also common and completely harmless that your cat inadvertently swallows the deciduous teeth shells while eating. The adult teeth then grow into the sockets, resulting in a set of 30 permanent teeth.
Symptoms of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Cats
Retained deciduous present a number of symptoms, including:
- Crowded teeth
- Teeth at abnormal angles and positions
- Permanent teeth growing behind, beside, or in front of deciduous teeth
- Red, irritated gums (gingivitis)
- Unwillingness to eat or difficulty eating because of pain
- Breath with a metallic odor
Causes of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Cats
Retained deciduous teeth are caused by the roots of deciduous teeth that do not resorb fully or at all to give way to the permanent adult teeth that are growing into that socket. It is suspected, but not known for certain, that retained deciduous teeth are likely a congenital condition.
Diagnosis of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Cats
Retained deciduous teeth in kittens can be noticed by pet owners or by veterinarians during routine examinations. If you or your veterinarian suspects that your cat has retained one or more deciduous teeth, your vet will likely administer the following diagnostic procedures:
- Examine your cat’s teeth, looking to see if there are permanent teeth coming in behind, in front of, or beside deciduous teeth that are still in the socket.
- Test the deciduous teeth to determine if they are loose or if they are still firmly in place, having been retained.
- Chart the teeth over time, keeping track of which deciduous teeth have been shed and which permanent teeth have fully erupted.
- Order an x-ray of your cat’s mouth to help in the diagnostic process.
- Discuss with you the process for pulling the deciduous teeth.
If your cat is an adult that is found to have retained deciduous teeth, the vet will utilize many of the same diagnostic tools in order to determine which teeth may need to be pulled to make more room for the adult teeth that have grown into the same socket. It is imperative that an adult cat with this condition receive treatment as the cat has likely been living with tremendous pain. Often an adult cat with retained deciduous teeth will need to be referred to a veterinary specialist in dentistry and orthodontics.
Treatment of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Cats
If your veterinarian diagnoses your kitten as having one or more retained deciduous teeth, the vet will need to pull the deciduous teeth as soon as possible. This will occur while your cat is under general anesthesia. Pulling these teeth will allow the permanent adult teeth to utilize the full socket and grow into proper position.
Adult cats with retained deciduous teeth will likely need to be treated by a veterinary specialist in dentistry and orthodontics. Extraction of teeth, especially when the patient is an adult animal and the teeth are the canine teeth, can be a very delicate and precise procedure that requires training and experience.
Recovery of Retained Deciduous Teeth in Cats
After a veterinarian has extracted the retained deciduous teeth, a kitten will likely recover from the surgery without any long term effects. The cat may be lethargic for a few hours to a few days from the anesthesia and uninterested in eating because of the pain and medication. The kitten will likely be given pain medication and antibiotics to prevent infection, and will be scheduled for a follow-up appointment with your vet. An adult cat that has had retained deciduous teeth extracted will likely need a great deal more recovery time than a kitten. Adult cats will also have follow-up appointments either with a veterinary dentist/orthodontist or with your veterinarian.
Retained Deciduous Teeth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat has a retained deciduous tooth, its not loose, and we just noticed it. The adult tooth is all the way in though. He is about 5 months old, he doesnt seem to be in pain minus when you touch it. He has been bleeding a bit when you touch it, the gums a red and swollen and his breath smells kinda bad. Should we wait a bit and see if the tooth will drop or take him to the dentist now?
I would recommend having the retained tooth removed as soon as possible as the tooth will cause pain during eating and playing which may lead to a loss of appetite. Depending on the amount of attachment (since the adult tooth is all the way through), it may be a simple procedure to remove; your regular Veterinarian would be able to remove this with ease without the need for a specialist. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM
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