Normally, a kitten will have 26 baby teeth once it is six months old. By the time it reaches adulthood, an adult cat will have 30 teeth. Misalignment of a cat's teeth, or malocclusion, occurs when the bite does not fit accordingly. That is, the top and bottom jaws do not fit together neatly. This may begin as the kitten's baby teeth come in and usually worsens as their adult teeth follow.
The smaller front teeth between the canines on the upper and lower jaws are called incisors. These are used to grasp food and to keep the tongue inside the mouth. Canines (also known as cuspids or fangs) are found behind the front teeth, which are also used to grasp. Behind the canines are the premolars (or bicuspids) and their function is to shear or cut food. Molars are the last teeth and are found at the back of the mouth; they are used for chewing.
Common problems that can arise from tooth malocclusion:
If problems with the palate persist, a fistula may result and become infected. In cases of misaligned teeth, the cat may have difficulty chewing, picking up food, and may be inclined to eat only larger pieces. They are also prone to tartar and plaque build-up.
There are several types of diagnosable malocclusion:
With an overbite, the upper jaw is longer than the lower one. When the mouth is closed, a gap between the upper and lower incisors occurs. Kittens born with an overbite will sometimes have the problem correct itself if the gap is not too large. However, a cat's bite will usually set at ten months old. At this time improvement will not happen on its own. Your pet's overbite may worsen as the permanent teeth come in because they are larger and can damage the soft parts of the mouth. Teeth extractions are sometimes necessary.
Malocclusions may be caused by:
The teeth found between the canine teeth and molars
A condition in which the teeth do not connect properly
The term for the front teeth that are used for cutting