Cat Dental Health: What Every Owner Should Know About a Cat's Oral Hygiene

Did you know that the health of your cat's mouth can have an effect on their overall health? Our Edgewater vets discuss cat dental health and everything that you need to know about caring for their oral hygiene.

Why Dental Care for Cats

Cats are stoic creatures that are adept at hiding their pain. They may be suffering from a painful oral health issue without ever letting on that they are uncomfortable. Because of this, owners need to be conscious of their feline companion's oral health and keep their furry companion's teeth clean. By monitoring and regularly cleaning your cat's teeth, you will be able to detect any oral health issues early and help your cat avoid pain and expensive treatment.

Dental Disease and How it Affects Cats

While your cat's teeth are perfectly suited for ripping and tearing meat, they are also prone to trapping food and bacteria between the teeth and beneath the gumline. When leftover food particles combine with saliva and bacteria in your cat's mouth, plaque forms.

Plaque adheres to the surface of your cat's teeth, causing gingivitis, an oral health condition characterized by swelling, redness, and pain near the gumline. Over time, your cat's plaque will harden into tartar, resulting in painful periodontal disease.

If left untreated, feline periodontal disease can quickly lead to tooth resorption. Tooth resorption is a painful dental condition that affects approximately 75% of cats over the age of 5 years. When tooth resorption occurs, your cat must have the affected tooth extracted in order to regain good oral health.

As with humans, bacteria from oral health issues can enter the bloodstream and travel throughout your cat's body, potentially causing heart, liver, or kidney damage.

Symptoms of Dental Disease That Cats May Experience

As previously mentioned, cats are very good at hiding signs of pain, so symptoms of dental disease can easily be missed. That said, once your cat's dental health problems become more advanced you will likely notice one or more of the following signs:

  • Tooth Discoloration and visible tartar
  • Bad Breath (halitosis)
  • Excessive drooling (may contain blood)
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty eating or slow eating
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Exposed tooth roots
  • Bleeding, swollen or noticeably red gums
  • Poor grooming, unkept appearance
  • Pawing at their teeth or mouth

If your cat is showing signs of dental disease it is likely that their oral health issue is advanced. Contact your vet to arrange a dental examination as soon as possible. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your cat's long-term health.

How Dental Disease is Treated in Cats

Once your cat exhibits symptoms of dental health disease, treatment is required to relieve pain, prevent further deterioration, and restore your cat's good oral health.

A professional cleaning can remove plaque and mineral buildup from your cat's teeth, leading to improved oral health. In more severe cases, your veterinarian may need to perform oral surgery to remove one or more of your cat's teeth.

How You Can Help Prevent Dental Disease in Your Cat

Caring for your cat's oral health is similar to caring for your own smile; there are three basic components: good nutrition, thorough at-home oral hygiene, and regular professional dental care.

Ensuring Proper Nutrition For Your Cat

A healthy diet that meets all of your cat's nutritional requirements is critical for keeping your cat's teeth and gums in good condition. Good nutrition helps to strengthen your cat's immune system, allowing them to fight disease and heal quickly.

Your veterinarian may recommend a dental food that helps to reduce the growth of bacteria and plaque. These specially formulated cat foods contain larger pieces to encourage chewing, which can help scrape and clean the teeth's surface.

Supplements can also help fight dental disease in cats. Oral rinses can help protect your cat's teeth, and sea kelp is an effective additive for combating oral bacteria and tooth decay.

How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth

Maintaining a daily dental hygiene routine for your cat could help to keep your feline friend's teeth and gums healthy throughout their lifetime. To make cleaning your cat's teeth at home as easy and stress-free as possible, begin establishing a daily oral hygiene routine for your cat while they are still a kitten. This way, your cat will be accustomed to having its teeth brushed and mouth touched from a young age.

Strive to make brushing your cat's teeth a stress-free and easy part of your kitty's daily routine. Start by waiting until your cat is calm and relaxed, then follow these steps:

  1. Gently lift your cat's lips, then use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for just a few seconds.
  2. Don't expect too much from your cat at first. You may only be able to reach a couple of teeth the first few times your try this process. That's okay though. This is about building trust in your cat to help prevent them from becoming agitated. 
  3. Remain calm and be sure to give lots of praise and a yummy treat after your teeth-and-gum massage. You're trying to build your cat’s tolerance to the experience, gradually increasing the length of time you spend on the task each day.
  4. Once your feline friend is used to you massaging their gums each day, you will be able to gradually introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush you can acquire from your vet and some special cat toothpaste. Toothpaste can come in a range of excellent flavors for cats like beef or chicken.
  5. Begin using the toothbrush as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your cat may begin by licking just a small dab of toothpaste from your finger. 

Teeth Cleaning Can Take a While For Your Cat to Get Used To

The success you have in cleaning your cat's teeth will be largely determined by your pet's temperament. Make sure you're calm, relaxed, flexible, and willing to tailor your approach to your cat's tolerance level. Many cat owners find it simple to clean their pet's teeth with gauze, while others find a finger brush to be effective, and still others apply a dental gel with their fingers and let it do the work for them.

When you've successfully started brushing your cat's teeth, work along the gumline, stopping before your cat becomes irritated. It could take weeks before your cat tolerates having all of its teeth cleaned in one session.

If your cat is stressed or alarmed by the teeth-cleaning process, they may scratch or bite. If brushing your cat's teeth is too difficult for you and your kitty, consider adding plaque-removing additives to their drinking water, purchasing specially designed chew toys, or providing your cat with tasty dental treats.

Bringing Your Cat in for Annual Dental Exams

To help ensure that your cat's mouth stays pain-free and healthy, our vets recommend annual professional dental care as a part of your kitty's preventative healthcare routine. Taking your cat for a dental appointment is like a visit to the cat dentist. Your vet will evaluate your cat's oral health, take x-rays if required, and do a thorough cleaning. If your cat is suffering from a mouth injury, tooth loss, or severe decay, your dentist will provide you with recommendations regarding care or surgery to treat your cat's oral health issues. 

To find out more about dental care for cats available here at our Edgewater animal hospital, check out our dentistry page.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time to schedule your cat for routine dental care or a dental cleaning? Contact our Edgewater vets right away!