Does your cat have bad breath? Are their teeth clean?
Gingivitis and tartar accumulation are common features of dental disease in cats. You’ll notice that your cat has bad breath and his gums may be a little red. If you look at his teeth, particularly at those big back upper molars, you may see hard yellow tartar on the outer surface of each tooth.
Cats also have some unique dental conditions that aren’t always noticed by their owner but can cause them serious problems.
DENTAL CONDITIONS SPECIFIC TO CATS
There are some conditions that affect a cat’s teeth that don’t occur in other species.
- Tooth resorption is a disease where a cat’s teeth are broken down, possibly due to an autoimmune reaction, and absorbed back into his body. Most cats with this condition don’t show any symptoms even though their mouth is extremely painful. Others will salivate profusely and will have trouble eating. It is thought that over 50% of cats over 3 years old have some degree of tooth resorption. Treatment is usually extraction of the affected tooth.
- Another suspected autoimmune condition is plasma cell stomatitis. This is thought to be a reaction to plaque on the teeth or even the dentine that is part of the teeth. A cat’s teeth may look healthy enough but his gums and the area in the mouth where the upper and lower jaws meet are bright red and extremely irritated. Plasma cell stomatitis often initially responds to stringent teeth cleaning and anti-inflammatory medication but in many cases, the only way to give a cat permanent relief is to extract all his teeth.
CARING FOR YOUR CAT’S TEETH AT HOME
It’s not difficult or time consuming to look after your cat’s teeth and prevent the development of dental disease. Just a few minutes a day will keep his pearly whites sparkling and his gums pink and healthy.
- Physically look inside your cat’s mouth every day. Look for tartar on the teeth and any signs of redness along his gum line. Check for broken teeth, as these can lead to abscess formation. If you notice anything unusual or abnormal, have your veterinarian take a look at it.
- Brush his teeth daily with a soft toothbrush and a toothpaste that is specifically designed for pets. You can use a baby’s toothbrush, or a silicon finger brush with soft rubber bristles. If you start brushing your cat’s teeth when he is a kitten, he’ll learn to put up with it. If he really objects to having the brush in his mouth, then wiping his teeth with a damp washcloth can help to remove plaque.
- Give your cat things to chew on, such as rawhides or Greenies, which can help to remove any plaque that starts to accumulate. You can also talk to your veterinarian about Hill prescription diet T/D to help control dental disease.
- Water additives such as Aquadent may help to keep your cat’s mouth healthy between brushings.
VETERINARY CARE FOR YOUR CAT’S TEETH
Because some of the most serious dental conditions in cats may not be detected by their owner, a veterinary check-up every 6 months is essential. These are done under a general anaesthetic because it’s impossible to do a thorough examination in an awake animal. Your vet will not only look for tartar and gum disease, but will also x-ray your cat’s mouth, looking for tooth resorption and any cavities that are below the gum line.
Your cat’s teeth will be cleaned with an ultrasonic scaler, any damaged teeth will be removed and the remaining ones will be polished smooth so it is harder for plaque to adhere to them.
IT’S IN YOUR HANDS
While a thorough veterinary cleaning will leave your cat’s teeth in pristine condition, they won’t stay that way for long. Plaque will start to accumulate within hours of him coming home from the surgery. Tartar will start to appear within a few days.
This means that you are the main person responsible for the care of your cat’s teeth. With regular maintenance and support from your vet, your four legged friend will have strong healthy teeth well into his senior years.