Cracked, Loose, or Discolored Teeth in Cats

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Key takeaways

Cracked, loose, or discolored teeth in cats are abnormal and indicate underlying conditions that may be causing pain.

  • Healthy, normal cat teeth are firmly in place, shiny white, and do not show signs of cracking or bleeding
  • Dental disease, the most common condition leading to cracked, loose, or discolored teeth, is very common in cats
  • Other potential causes include trauma, drug administration, or cancer
  • Treatment may not be necessary in all cases, but can involve tooth extraction, root canal procedures, and medications for any underlying infection, pain, or disease
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A closer look: Cracked, Loose, or Discolored Teeth in Cats


Cracked, loose, or discolored teeth are usually not an emergency, but may indicate something more serious. These symptoms may cause pain or difficulty eating, and warrant timely veterinary intervention.

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Possible causes


Cracked, loose and discolored teeth are associated with various forms of dental and oral injury and disease.

Cracked teeth are usually caused by trauma to the head or mouth, such as from being hit by a car or running into an object at high speed.

The most common cause of loose teeth is periodontal disease, in which the ligamentous and bony structures attaching the tooth to the jaw are weakened. Some serious underlying conditions, such as oral cancer, may also cause teeth to loosen.

Discolored teeth are often a sign that the tooth has been devitalized, or is dead, which also may arise secondary to trauma. Hemorrhage inside the tooth stains it pink, gray, or purplish. Discoloration may also be caused by certain medications, and teeth with heavy dental tartar may appear discolored. Tooth resorption is a common feline condition that causes loss of white enamel and exposes the pink tissue underneath.

Risk factors


Cracking, looseness, and discoloration vary in severity. Cracks or breaks in a tooth may involve only the enamel and dentin, or may extend into the pulp cavity, leading to pain and infection. Loosened teeth may be only slightly mobile or may be visibly dislocated from the socket. Discoloration may be an indication of a dead tooth, loss of enamel, or may be staining from tetracycline given at a young age.

Outdoor cats are at higher risk of injury, which may increase risk of tooth damage. Push-face (brachycephalic) cats are at high risk of dental abnormalities due to congenital deformities of the face, skull, jawbones, and inner mouth structures.

Testing and diagnosis


These tooth abnormalities are usually found by visual examination of the oral cavity, which is part of a thorough physical exam. A complete dental under general anesthetic may be recommended to better visualize and treat abnormal teeth. During this procedure, X-rays of all teeth are taken to check for any cracks and abnormalities under the gumline.

Cracked teeth may be extracted or undergo a root canal procedure. Loose teeth are usually extracted. Discoloration of a tooth may resolve after dental cleaning, or may be permanent with no further treatment necessary. Teeth with pink coloration due to resorption are usually extracted because they are painful.

Similar symptoms


Loose teeth are normal in kittens around 4-6 months of age. Their “baby teeth” are being replaced with their permanent adult teeth, just like in humans.

Foreign bodies, or something stuck to a tooth, may appear to be a crack or discoloration of the tooth itself. Similarly, dental tartar, which is yellow to brown in color, may appear to be discoloration of the actual tooth.

Associated symptoms


References


PetMD Editorial - Writing for PetMD
Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP - Writing for VCA Animal Hospitals
Laci Schaible, DVM, MSL, CVJ - Writing for PetMD
Alexander M. Reiter, Dipl. Tzt., DEVDC, DAVDC - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Animal Dental Specialist - Writing for Animal Dentistry and Oral Surgery
PetMD Editorial - Writing for PetMD
George M. Barrington, DVM, PhD, DACVIM-LAIM - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual
Alexander M. Reiter, Dipl. Tzt., DEVDC, DAVDC - Writing for Merck Veterinary Manual

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