My Cat Has Yellow Teeth
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Our cats have teeth which may look very different to our own, but they are made from the same material and function in similar ways. As with humans, cats will lose their milk teeth when they mature. They are subject to deterioration and are affected by food, although in a different way to humans. Despite these similarities, many guardians do not care for their cats teeth anywhere near as much as they do their own. While there are differences in dental hygiene requirements, we still need to look after our cat's teeth. If we see our cat has yellow teeth, it is a sign their dental care has been neglected.
At AnimalWised, we look at the reasons why my cat has yellow teeth. We understand what we can do help treat any periodontal issues, as well as prevent them happening in the future.
A cat's teeth
The layout of a cat's teeth are specific to their needs. They have 12 incisors, 4 canines, 10 premolars and 4 molars, making 30 teeth in total. Their canines are sharp because they are obligate carnivores. Since they derive their nutrition from animal protein, they need these sharp teeth to tear at flesh for consumption. Their molars will help to break down this food, but they do not chew their food much. Instead, they rip the flesh into bitesize pieces.
Although both humans and cats have enamel on their teeth, this tends to be thicker in cats. Feline saliva is also not as corrosive as human saliva tends to be. Humans have a diet which contains varying amounts of sugar, something which should not be present in a cat's diet. Despite these factors, cats can still suffer from dental problems.
Many of these problems can be fairly obvious. For example, if their tooth is missing they are suffering from tooth loss. Some problems may be less obvious, something which can be seen when a cat has yellow teeth.
Tartar, also called dental calculus, consists of a hardening or calcification of bacterial plaque on tooth enamel. This is due to the deposit of minerals (phosphorus, calcium or potassium salts from saliva) on this plaque. Bacterial plaque is formed by bacteria normally present in the cat's mouth fuse with food and protein debris. These tartar deposits are yellowish or brown in color, which is why cats with tartar have yellow teeth.
The teeth most commonly affected by tartar in these animals are the molars, but the front teeth in the dental arch can also be affected. On some occasions, tartar can form on the edge or underneath the gums. This can lead to irritation and predisposes them to inflammation. As tartar provides an additional base for bacteria to attach and perpetuate, it can predispose to the formation of cavities and gum disease.
Treatment of tartar in cats
The decomposition of carbohydrates in food forms lactic acid, in turn contributing to the deterioration of gums. It also damages tooth enamel and the periodontal ligament near the root of the tooth. For this reason, if our cat has a lot of tartar or it has already caused more severe damage to the soft tissues of the cat's mouth, the solution is to perform a dental cleaning at the veterinary center. This dental cleaning is performed under general anesthesia and specific devices are used to clean and polish the feline's teeth. If necessary, the damaged pieces are extracted.
For more information on how tartar affects feline dental health, take a look at the most common oral diseases in cats.
Periodontal disease or gum disease is a range of inflammatory processes which affect gum tissue and other tissues in the mouth. When the inflammation progresses sufficiently, it is known as periodontitis. It is often the result of the progression of the problems tartar provides. Tartar can develop on bacterial plaque and advance under the gums. This leads to inflammation known as gingivitis in cats.
When it reaches the periodontal support tissue of the gums and other areas, it affects the alveolar bone and the periodontal ligament. In turn, this causes the tooth to looses. It may be reabsorbed, broken or even fall out. After tooth loss, infections and abscesses can appear.
In the most serious and advanced cases of feline periodontitis, communications can be created with other cavities such as the nasal or ocular cavities. These can spread to other organs and systems such as the heart (leading to bacterial endocarditis) or the kidney and produce septicemia.
Periodontal disease is very common in cats. An estimated 8 out of 10 cats over 3 years of age present this disease to a greater or lesser degree. Some symptoms a cat with periodontal disease may present include the following:
- Yellow teeth
- Bad breath (halitosis)
- Bleeding gums
- Refusal of hard food
- Difficulty chewing
- Loose teeth
Treatment of periodontitis in cats
In the mildest cases, a dental cleaning at the veterinary center will suffice. In more serious cases, dental extraction and even some regenerative techniques of the dental periodontium will be necessary to delay the evolution of the pathology.
Learn more with our article on periodontal disease in cats.
Feline chronic gingivostomatitis
Feline chronic gingivostomatitis is a disease that consists of chronic oral inflammation of the gums and oral mucosa. This can sometimes extend to the soft palate and tongue. One of the clinical signs that characterize this disease in cats is caudal stomatitis, i.e. irritation at the most posterior part of the mouth.
This disease often appears with yellow teeth, either due to tartar, bacterial plaque or the natural aging of the cat. Tis reduces the whiteness of its enamel, so it is normal for cats with chronic gingivostomatitis to have more yellowish teeth. In addition, the teeth can be affected internally, producing dental resorption.
Cats with chronic gingivostomatitis do not want to eat even if they are hungry due to the enormous pain of doing so. They lose weight and stop grooming for the same reason. Other signs that may appear with this pathology are hypersalivation, bad breath, ulcers, inflammation of the mouth, lips and gums, and inflammation of the pharynx and glottis.
For related information, check out our related article on why cats have red and swollen gums.
Treatment of gingivostomatitis in cats
To treat this disease, the accumulation of bacterial plaque must be reduced. Inflammation and damage to the teeth will also need to be controlled. Analgesics (such as meloxicam and/or buprenorphine) and antibiotics (such as clindamycin) may be used. Ideally, an antibiogram will be proven to choose the effective antibiotic and reduce the appearance of resistance.
An oral cleaning is also necessary. Rinses with chlorhexidine and water or applying chlorhexidine adhesive gels can also be used. It is a good idea to use feed that is hypoallergenic or contains novel protein as one possible cause is the presence of food allergens.
In teeth affected by dental resorption or severe periodontitis, the dental pieces must be extracted. In the most serious cases of feline chronic gingivostomatitis, or in those in which there is no improvement a few months after the partial extraction, all the molars and premolars of the cat should be extracted. This is considered to be the best therapy for this disease and cures up to 60% of cats.
When this problem is unable to be cured completely, this treatment at least relieves the pain and reduces the inflammation. This allows the cats to feed properly. If mesenchymal stem cells or omega interferon are used, the improvement is more noticeable in these cases.
Tooth decay and cavities
Another cause that can explain why your cat has yellow teeth is the appearance of cavities, also known as dental caries. While we think of cavities as being holes in our teeth, they can also be more generally described as the breakdown of teeth due to bacteria. This is due to the demineralization and degradation of tooth enamel. Acids in our saliva try to break down the carbohydrates in the cat's mouth, damaging the tooth in the process.
By their nature, these acids demineralize the enamel by dissolving calcium salts. If this degradation continues to the dentin or pulp of the tooth, it can lead to its complete destruction.
Some symptoms of tooth decay in cats include the following:
- Mouth pain
- Loss of appetite
- Bad breath
- Tartar (yellow teeth)
- Fever (with secondary infections)
- Difficulty biting
Treatment of cavities in cats
When they are mild and have not affected the deepest layers of the tooth, the treatment of caries in cats consists of a remineralization and reconstruction of the affected tooth. However, in most serious cases of feline dental caries, the treatment consists of the extraction of the affected tooth or teeth. A reconstruction of the tooth or endodontics (root canal) can also be performed, where possible.
If you notice your cat has yellow teeth, swollen gums and shows evident signs of pain, do not hesitate to go to the veterinary clinic. As you have already been able to verify, some of the causes are very serious.
This article is purely informative. AnimalWised does not have the authority to prescribe any veterinary treatment or create a diagnosis. We invite you to take your pet to the veterinarian if they are suffering from any condition or pain.
If you want to read similar articles to My Cat Has Yellow Teeth, we recommend you visit our Bacterial diseases category.
- Harvey, A., & Tasker, S. (Eds). (2014). Handbook of Feline Medicine. Ed. Sastre Molina, SL L´Hospitalet de Llobregat, Barcelona, Spain.