Feline Dental Disease

According to the American Veterinary Dental Society (AVDS), 70 percent of pet cats show signs of dental disease by age 3. These signs can include bad breath, changes in eating habits, or pawing at the face and mouth. If left untreated, these signs can result in your pet losing his teeth.

When your cat eats, food residue called plaque sticks to his teeth. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar, which can lead to gingivitis, or an irritation of the gums, if it is not removed. Untreated gingivitis leads to gum disease, the most common cause of feline dental problems and tooth loss.

Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions

Feline oral resorptive lesions (FORLs) are the second most common cause of feline dental problems, according to the AVDS. About 28 percent of pet cats have this condition. Affected cats have cells called odontoclasts that stick to their deciduous teeth (usually the molars) near the gumline. These odontoclasts break down the teeth, causing them to be reabsorbed. Clinical signs include drooling, bleeding or difficulty chewing.

If your cat suffers from FORLs, you can help manage the condition by softening his food with water and brushing his teeth daily. Surgery may or may not be required, depending on the extent of the condition. Some breeds, including the Abyssinian, the Persian and the Siamese, are more prone to the condition.

Feline Stomatitis

Some cats suffer from feline stomatitis, which is an inflammation of the entire mouth. Clinical signs include drooling, extreme pain, and appetite and weight loss. Your cat's behavior may change, too. He may become more aggressive, or he may act depressed and withdraw from his normal routine.

Treatment options include oral gels, routine dental cleaning, steroids, antibiotics or homeopathic remedies. In advanced cases, surgery to extract some or all of your cat's teeth may also be an option.

FeLV and FIV

Viral infections, such as feline leukemia virus and feline immunodeficiency virus, can leave a cat prone to dental problems. Dental disease is often an indicator of these viral infections for veterinarians, and maintaining good oral health helps prevent complications from these diseases.

Do Daily Mouth Checks

Examine your cat's mouth for signs of problems as part of your daily care routine. Watch how he chews at mealtime. Look in his mouth to ensure nothing is caught in his teeth. Check that his gums are pink and firm and that he doesn't have bad breath or plaque buildup on his teeth.

The easiest way to prevent dental disease in your cat is to brush his teeth regularly. Use a soft-bristled toothbrush and a toothpaste designed for pets to clean your cat's teeth and gums daily. Your pet may also benefit from a special dental diet that helps reduce plaque buildup on his teeth. In addition to your at-home care, your cat should have his teeth cleaned during his annual physical.