Maybe you’ve never given it a lot of thought but caring for your cat’s dental health is just as important as providing a healthy diet, a stimulating environment, and lots of love.
Establishing a good dental care routine for your cat is vital to his health and happiness at any age.
Not only does it keep your kitty’s breath smelling fresh, but it also helps to prevent issues like gingivitis, periodontal disease, and serious health concerns like heart disease.
Here’s what responsible pet parents need to know about their cat’s dental health.
Why Caring Your Cat’s Dental Health Is So Important
Unfortunately, as many as 50 - 90% of cats develop dental disease once they pass four years old. That’s because, without proper care, bacteria and plaque begin to build up on the teeth.
Over time, this buildup turns into tartar on the teeth and under the gum line, leading to gum disease, periodontal disease, and infections that can travel through the bloodstream and cause harm to vital organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Dental issues can be extremely painful and make it difficult for your cat to eat or drink.
If these issues aren’t treated, the damage can become irreversible and affected teeth may have to be pulled to relieve the kitty’s pain and prevent further damage.
If periodontal disease is allowed to progress, it can also cause damage to the structures that hold the teeth in place, resulting in tooth and bone loss.
The good news is dental issues in cats are largely preventable with good preventive care at home and at your vet’s office.
Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
According to veterinary dentists at Bond Vet, “Brushing your cat’s teeth is an essential part of pet parenting. Daily brushing can help prevent dental disease, plaque, gingivitis, tooth loss, gum disease, and bad breath.”
You’ll need a soft cat toothbrush, gauze, and some cat-safe toothpaste to get started. Human toothpaste is toxic to cats, so don’t be tempted to use yours. It’s also a good idea to have some of your cat’s favorite treats on hand to offer as rewards.
Introduce your cat to the idea of having your hands around his mouth by touching his mouth and lips gently a few times a day for several days.
Eventually, you can start lifting his lip and touching his teeth and gums. Do this for a week or two and don’t forget to offer treats and affection after each session.
Before introducing the toothbrush, wrap some gauze around your finger, add some kitty toothpaste, and use your finger to gently clean the teeth and gums.
Focus on the gum line, where plaque tends to build up. Over time, you can gradually switch over to using the toothbrush.
Alternatives to Brushing
Brushing is the best way to care for your cat’s teeth at home, but we understand that some cats just won’t tolerate it.
If that’s the case with your kitty, considering switching to a dental diet, offering dental treats, and using water additives that help to remove tartar.
These alternatives can also be used to complement brushing and keep your kitty’s teeth and breath extra clean.
Be sure to choose products that carry the Veterinary Oral Health Council Seal (VOHC) to ensure you’re getting a quality product.
What a Healthy Cat’s Mouth Should Look Like
Your kitty may not appreciate your efforts, but it’s also important that you look in his mouth regularly for signs of dental issues.
Healthy teeth should be nice and white. There shouldn’t be any broken or missing teeth.
The gums should pink, with no signs of bleeding, swelling, sores, or redness.
Be on the lookout for swelling, ulcers, or bumps anywhere inside the mouth. Cats are known for being curious and getting into things they shouldn’t, so you should also check for foreign objects, like string wrapped around the teeth, as well.
Persistent bad breath could indicate an infection or the beginning stages of periodontal disease.
You should also be aware of things like drooling, pawing at the face, swelling around the mouth, or a lack of appetite that could indicate dental issues.
Any abnormal findings should be brought to your vet’s attention right away.
Provide Regular Checkups and Professional Dental Cleanings
Your cat should have a dental checkup at the vet at least once each year. The vet will look inside your kitty’s mouth for any developing dental issues that you may have missed at home.
He’ll also tell you when it’s time for your kitty to have a professional dental cleaning.
Professional dental cleanings are crucial for your cat’s dental health because they allow the vet to clean the teeth under the gumline, where you can’t reach with a toothbrush.
This is extremely important for preventing infection and periodontal disease.
Professional dental cleanings for pets are done under anesthesia, so your kitty won’t experience any stress or pain during the procedure.
It also allows the vet to examine and probe every tooth carefully and address any issues.
If necessary, extractions are also performed while your kitty is under anesthesia, such as when there’s an infection at the root of the tooth or if the tooth is loose and causing pain.
Understandably, sedating your cat might make you a little nervous, but it’s necessary for your cat’s safety during the procedure, as well as for ensuring that the vet can do a thorough job.
Keep in mind that you might be able to go longer between professional cleaning if you can provide good preventive care at home with daily brushing.
Wrapping It Up
Caring for your cat’s dental health is an important part of being a responsible cat parent.
Once you know what to do and what to look for, it’s really not that difficult.
It’s an essential step for ensuring a long, healthy, happy life for your beloved fur baby.
Written by Nicole McCray
Nicole is a die-hard animal lover who has worked in pet care for years. She is a former vet technician, a dog mom to her two rescue pups, and she grew up living and working at her family's pet boarding facility.
She loves using her writing talents to share the insight she's learned throughout her career in the hopes that her knowledge can help other pet parents out there!