A Guide to Cat Dental Care

Cat dental care can help prevent gum disease and infections, periodontitis and gingivitis. It can help prevent the complications of diseases like feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus. A comprehensive cat dental care program includes routine veterinary exams and dental cleanings, as well as home dental care.

Feline Dental Disease

Cats don't often get cavities, but food residue and bacteria can accumulate along the gumline and form plaque. Left unattended, this plaque can form tartar. Plaque begins to mineralize into tartar if left on the teeth for three to five days. Tartar can irritate the gums, causing inflammation and gingivitis.

Once tartar builds up on your cat's teeth, brushing alone won't remove it. Instead, scaling and polishing will be required.

If tartar is not removed by scaling and polishing, your cat could succumb to periodontal disease. This occurs when tartar builds up under the gums, gradually separating the gums from the teeth and creating pockets where bacteria can grow. At this point, the irreversible damage is known as periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease can cause extreme pain, loose teeth, abscesses, bone loss and infection. If the bacteria enters the bloodstream, they can infect the heart, liver or kidneys. For this reason, periodontal disease can be fatal.

Veterinary Dental Exams and Cleaning

Veterinary exams and dental cleanings are key to a good cat dental care program. Each year, your veterinarian should perform an oral exam and teeth cleaning. The oral exam can identify plaque and tartar build up, disease and missing or abscessed teeth.

During the exam, your vet will examine your cat's face and head for asymmetry, swelling and discharges. He'll examine the teeth and gums and the inner surfaces of the mouth including the tongue. He may also palpitate the salivary glands and lymph nodes in the neck.

Routine home dental care is essential for your cat's dental health. Remember that brushing only removes plaque, not tartar. To get your cat's teeth really clean, he'll need yearly veterinary dental cleanings. Your cat will need to be anesthetized in order to have his teeth cleaned by a veterinarian.

A veterinary tooth cleaning involves scaling to remove tartar, polishing the teeth to remove scratches and flushing your cat's mouth with an antibacterial solution. Your vet can get a close look at your cat's teeth and make recommendations for his home dental care regimen.

Feline Dental Care at Home

When you perform cat dental care at home, you'll first need to examine your cat's mouth for signs of disease. You're looking for bad breath, red, swollen gums and a yellow-brown tartar crust at the gumline. Make sure your cat's gums aren't bleeding or sore. Look out for stained, fractured or missing teeth. Any lumps or growths in your cat's mouth should receive hasty veterinary attention.

Brush your cat's teeth daily to help remove plaque. If possible, begin training your cat to accept teeth brushing in kittenhood. Don't give up just because your cat is older; he can still accept teeth brushing with time. Finally, include some hard kibbles in your cat's diet to help reduce plaque build up.