Much like people, cats can suffer from painful dental health issues due to injury or poor oral hygiene. Our Danbury vets explain how and why you need to keep your cat's teeth and mouth healthy.
Your Cat's Dental Health
Cats are stoic creatures that are proficient at hiding their pain. They may be suffering from a painful oral health issue without ever letting on that they are uncomfortable. Because of this, owners need to be conscious of their feline companion's oral health and keep their furry companion's teeth clean. By monitoring and regularly cleaning your cat's teeth, you will be able to detect any oral health issues early and help your cat avoid pain and expensive treatment.
Why Feline Dental Health is Important
Dental disease is one of the most common diseases in cats. Approximately 70% of cats will have some form of dental disease by the time they reach the age of two. Additionally, there may be hidden dental diseases that are causing your cat pain you are unaware of.
Not taking care of your cat's dental health can lead to pain and discomfort, and in severe cases, can cause life-threatening heart, liver, and kidney disease.
How Does Cat Dental Disease Start?
Like most disease processes, dental disease is progressive and starts with plaque formation. Plaque is a biofilm, which is an accumulation of bacteria on a surface. Immediately after brushing or dental cleaning, plaque forms within 24 hours. If you don’t remove plaque off the teeth right away, tartar will begin to form.
If tartar is left on the teeth, gingivitis will start to develop within just three weeks. Gingivitis is a common type of periodontal disease (infection of the gums) in which the gums become inflamed. Bleeding of the gums when brushing or chewing can be the first sign of gingivitis.
Without treatment, gingivitis quickly progresses to visible redness of the gums. This quick progression of dental disease is good for cat owners to know. If your cat has a dental cleaning and you aren’t doing anything for the teeth at home, a month later your cat could already have gingivitis.
How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth at Home
Maintaining a daily dental hygiene routine for your cat could help to keep your feline friend's teeth and gums healthy throughout their lifetime. To make cleaning your cat's teeth at home as easy and stress-free as possible, begin establishing a daily oral hygiene routine for your cat while they are still a kitten. This way, your cat will be accustomed to having its teeth brushed and mouth touched from a young age.
Aim 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:
- Gently lift your cat's lips and use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for just a few seconds.
- Don't have high expectations 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- Begin using the toothbrush as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your cat may begin with licking just a small dab of toothpaste from your finger.
Be Patient While Your Cat Gets Used to Teeth Cleanings
The level of success you achieve when it comes to cleaning your cat's teeth will largely depend on your pet's temperament. Make sure you are calm, relaxed, flexible, and willing to adapt your approach to your cat's level of tolerance. Many cat owners have a very easy time cleaning their pet's teeth with some gauze, others find a finger brush works well, and others apply a dental gel with their fingers that does the work for them.
When you finally begin brushing your cat's teeth successfully, move along the gum line, working quickly but stopping before your cat becomes irritated. It could be weeks before your kitty tolerates having all of its teeth cleaned during a single session.
If your kitty is stressed or alarmed by the teeth cleaning process, they may react by scratching or biting. So if brushing your cat's teeth is too difficult for you and your kitty consider adding plaque remover additives into their drinking water, getting them specially designed chew toys, or providing your cat with tasty dental treats.
Annual Dental Exams for Cats
To help ensure that your cat's mouth stays pain-free and healthy, our vets recommend annual professional dental care as a part of your kitty's preventative healthcare routine. Taking your cat for a dental appointment is like a visit to the cat dentist. Your vet will evaluate your cat's oral health, take x-rays if required, and do a thorough cleaning. If your cat is suffering from a mouth injury, tooth loss, or severe decay, your dentist will provide you with recommendations regarding care or surgery to treat your cat's oral health issues.
To find out more about dental care for cats available here at our Danbury animal hospital check out our dentistry page.
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.