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

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

The Dental Health of Your Cat

Cats excel at concealing their pain, displaying a stoic nature. They might experience a painful oral health problem without showing any signs of discomfort. Owners must prioritize their feline companion's oral health and ensure their furry friend's teeth are kept clean. Regularly monitoring and cleaning your cat's teeth allows for early detection of any oral health issues, helping your cat avoid pain and costly treatment.

Dental Disease and How it Affects Cats

Your cat's teeth, designed for ripping and tearing meat, can easily trap food and bacteria between the teeth and under the gumline. Leftover food particles, saliva, and the bacteria in your cat's mouth come together to form plaque.

Your cat's teeth can develop plaque, which can lead to gingivitis. This condition causes swelling, redness, and pain along the gumline. As time passes, the plaque that accumulates on your cat's teeth will harden into tartar, leading to the development of painful periodontal disease.

If periodontal disease in cats is left untreated, it can rapidly progress to feline tooth resorption. Cats over the age of 5 years often experience tooth resorption, a dental condition that can be extremely painful. If tooth resorption occurs, your cat will require extraction of the affected tooth to restore their oral health.

Just like humans, bacteria from oral health problems can enter your cat's bloodstream and spread to different parts of their body, potentially causing damage to their heart, liver, or kidneys.

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

If your cat is showing symptoms of dental health disease, it is important to seek treatment to alleviate pain, prevent further deterioration, and restore their oral health.

Thorough professional cleaning, which involves removing plaque and mineral buildup by scaling and polishing the teeth, can effectively restore your cat's oral health in many cases. In some severe instances, the vet may have to conduct 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 much like caring for your own smile - there are 3 basic elements - good nutrition, thorough at-home oral hygiene and regular professional dental care.

Ensuring Proper Nutrition For Your Cat

Keeping your cat's teeth and gums healthy requires a healthy diet that fulfills all of their nutritional needs. Proper nutrition plays a crucial role in strengthening your cat's immune system, enabling them to combat illnesses and recover swiftly.

Your vet may suggest dental food that is specifically formulated to minimize the growth of bacteria and plaque. These specially formulated cat foods contain larger pieces that promote chewing, aiding in the scraping and cleaning of the teeth's surface.

Supplements can play a valuable role in combating dental disease in cats. Using oral rinses can protect your cat's teeth, while sea kelp can be a helpful additive in fighting oral bacteria and tooth decay.

At-Home Dental Care For Your Cat

Keeping up with a daily dental hygiene routine for your cat can contribute to the long-term health of their teeth and gums. Establishing a daily oral hygiene routine for your cat while they are still a kitten can make cleaning their teeth at home easier and less stressful. By starting early, your cat will become familiar with having its teeth brushed and mouth handled.

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

Your pet's temperament will play a significant role in determining the level of success you can achieve in cleaning your cat's teeth. Ensure that you maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor, while also being flexible and willing to adjust your approach to match your cat's level of tolerance. Cleaning a cat's teeth can be done in various ways. Some cat owners prefer using gauze, while others find finger brushes to be effective. Another option is applying dental gel with their fingers, allowing it to do the work.

Once you start brushing your cat's teeth, make sure to focus on the gum line. Be efficient but mindful not to irritate your cat. Your kitty may take weeks to become comfortable with having all of its teeth cleaned in one session.

If your cat feels stressed or alarmed during the teeth-cleaning process, they might respond by scratching or biting. If brushing your cat's teeth is challenging for you, there are alternative options to help maintain their dental health. You can try adding plaque remover additives to their drinking water, providing them with specially designed chew toys, or offering tasty dental treats.

Bringing Your Cat in for Annual Dental Exams

Our vets recommend including annual professional dental care in your kitty's preventative healthcare routine to maintain a pain-free and healthy mouth. When you bring your cat in for a dental appointment, it's just like going to the dentist for cats. The vet will assess your cat's oral health, conduct x-rays if necessary, and perform a comprehensive cleaning. If your cat has a mouth injury, tooth loss, or severe decay, your dentist will give you recommendations for caring for or treating your cat's oral health issues.

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 Tucson vets right away!

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