Cat Dental Health: What Cat Lovers Need to Know

According to the Veterinary Oral Health Council, periodontal disease is a big problem. In fact, most cats have dental health problems by the time they're just 3 or 4 years old! This is because your kitty's teeth are subject to tartar and plaque build-up just like yours, yet, many cat lovers don't think about cleaning their cat's teeth.

When ignored, that tartar and plaque continue to cake your cat's teeth, eventually becoming gum and then periodontal disease. As you can imagine, inflamed gums hurt and will affect your cat's overall health and sense of well-being.

One of the things you'll want to know is that most cats simply learn to live with dental pain. You won't necessarily know there's something wrong with them because they won't complain about it. That's one reason it's so important to ensure that your kitty gets regular wellness exams. Your veterinarian will examine your cat's mouth as part of the exam and they know the signs of healthy -- or problem -- gums.

The good news is that gum disease is reversible if caught early enough. In a moment, we'll look at the symptoms, but first, here are ways you can help your cat to have a healthy mouth. 

3 Ways You Can Improve Your Cat's Dental Health

1. Good nutrition is the basis of all health

This includes cat dental health. The right vitamins and minerals contribute to strong bones and teeth. Your veterinarian can make a recommendation for the best foods for your kitty's age and health.

2. Brush your cat's teethBrush your kitty's teeth for her best dental health

This is considered the gold standard in dental care. Ideally, you will brush your cat's teeth daily. As you can imagine, the best time to introduce the idea is when your cat is still a young kitten. That's when they're easiest to accustom to a new routine. However, all is not lost if you have an adult cat. It just may take more patience.

One thing to keep in mind is that you don't want to use people toothpaste, as that can make your kitty very sick. Human toothpaste is made with fluoride and other ingredients that are harmful to cats. There are special kitty-approved kinds of toothpaste, including flavors like salmon, that won't upset your kitty's tummy and that she'll like better.

If you've never tried to brush your cat's teeth, start with touching the teeth with a soft cloth and a small dab of kitty toothpaste. It's OK if you only get to one or two teeth at first. Your goal is to work up to all the teeth over time. Have patience!

3. Talk with your veterinarian

Your vet will check your cat's gum health during your semi-annual wellness visits and make recommendations for caring for your cat's teeth. Veterinarians can tell a lot about your cat's overall health due to the health of their gums, including recognizing the early signs of gum disease. If caught early, gum disease is reversible, which can prevent your cat from experiencing unnecessary pain. Depending on your cat's age, health, and severity of dental health concerns, your veterinarian may recommend a professional cleaning for your cat.

What to Expect From a Professional Cat Dental Cleaning

Your veterinarian will examine your cat's mouth thoroughly and make note of any problem signs. Some potential problems can be spotted during your cat's wellness exam, but a professional dental cleaning allows your veterinarian to take a more in-depth look.  Your kitty will be put under anesthesia, and your veterinary team will remove the tartar and plaque. One thing you may not know is that cat's teeth have to be cleaned both above and below the gumline because a lot of gum disease is below the gumline. Along with scaling and polishing, just like we have done with our own dental hygienists, x-rays, charting, and/or fluoride treatments may be included. Once your cat's teeth are cleaned, your veterinarian will make sure she wakes up safely and is returned to you with a healthy mouth.

Symptoms of Dental Health Problems 

If your cat exhibits any of the following symptoms, you'll want to make sure to schedule an appointment with your veterinarian right away as they could be signs of gum disease:

  • Foul breath -- Your cat's breath may not ever be "minty fresh" but it shouldn't smell terribly foul either
  • Teeth Grinding
  • Drooling
  • Difficulty eating, such as dropping food or only eating on one side of his mouth
  • Swollen, red gums
  • Refusal to eat

In addition to periodontal disease and gingivitis, your kitty can develop mouth lesions. As you can imagine, these are painful and can require teeth extraction. 

As a cat caregiver, you want the best for your kitty including good cat dental care. Is it time for a checkup? If you have further questions, we can help you find a local vet!