Dental Care for Kittens

Dental care for kittens involves establishing an at-home cleaning routine that’s supplemented by regular professional cleaning. These two simple steps will help ensure the health of your cat’s teeth and gums. Let’s look at what’s involved in feline dental care, both at home and at the veterinarian’s office, and what can happen to your cat’s teeth if you don’t begin caring for them properly when she’s young.

Regular Brushings Help Remove Plaque and Tartar

When your kitten eats, her potential dental problems begin. Her saliva combines with her food as she chews, and some bits of food debris get stuck to her teeth and gums. As this mixture builds up in her mouth, it begins to form plaque, which eventually hardens into tartar and discolors your kitten’s teeth. Tartar can also be a breeding ground for dental disease, so it’s important to reduce the amount of plaque and tartar in your kitten’s mouth.

You can do this by instituting a regular at-home dental care plan for your kitten, and your veterinarian can help by providing your pet with regular professional cleanings.

How to Brush Your Kitten’s Teeth

Begin brushing your kitten’s teeth when she is young to get her accustomed to the process. Kittens are often more receptive to the brushing process than adult cats, but almost any cat can learn to have her teeth brushed through patient, repetitive training.

Start by simply touching your kitten’s mouth for a few minutes each day. Get her used to having her mouth opened, and look for any signs of problems, such as inflammation or swelling. When she is comfortable with having her mouth opened, begin massaging her gums and teeth with your finger. After a few days of this, you can apply a small amount of pet toothpaste to your finger and begin cleaning her teeth. Replace your finger with a pet toothbrush after a few days, and clean your cat’s teeth daily.

Remember to only use pet toothpaste on your kitten’s teeth. Human toothpaste contains ingredients than can upset a kitten’s stomach if it is swallowed.

Professional Care Means Cleaning and Examinations

An annual or semi-annual professional cleaning can supplement your at-home dental care. Your veterinarian will anesthetize your cat and perform the following procedures:

  • clean your cat's teeth above and below the gum line
  • examine the teeth for signs of damage
  • take corrective action, such as filling cavities or extracting damaged teeth, as needed

Feline Dental Problems Can Be Common

It’s estimated that 70 percent of cats over the age of 3 years have significant dental problems. Untreated dental problems in cats can lead to tooth loss, gum disease and other, less-obvious conditions such as heart, kidney or liver problems caused by bacteria that travel from the cat’s mouth through her bloodstream to these organs.

Symptoms of feline dental disease include

  • bad breath
  • drooling
  • face rubbing
  • refusal to eat

Cats can also develop tooth resorption, which is also known as feline oral resorptive lesions. This condition begins with the enamel of the cat’s molars being worn away. Over time, the interior portions of the tooth may be affected, which can result in pain, swelling and tooth loss.