One of the essential components of maintaining a healthy lifestyle for pet cats is having a good home dental regimen that involves brushing a cat's teeth regularly. Tooth and gum problems are common in cats. In fact, about 90% of cats have some form of dental problems at one time or another. Plaque and tartar can accumulate on the cat's teeth and gums which can eventually lead to infection, inflammation, gum disease, foul-smelling breath, and tooth loss.
One important reason why dental problems in cats are not detected early is their strong instinct to hide their pain. This trait is inherited from their ancestors. Any tell-tale sign showing that they are in pain makes them appear vulnerable to predators.
Warning Signs of Dental Problems In Cats
- Bad breath
- Bleeding gums
- A distinct dark red line along the gums
- Inflammation of the gums-- when gums are inflamed, an affected cat can suffer from tooth loss, gum disease, etc.
- Ulcers on the gums
- Excessive drooling or pawing at their mouth
- Refusal to eat
- Chewing difficulty
Any sign of dental disease should be brought to the attention of your veterinarian sooner rather than later.
What happens if you don't brush your cat's teeth?
Without regular tooth brushing, plaque slowly accumulates and forms a film on the surface of the cat’s teeth. Plaque is composed of food particles, saliva, and bacteria. If you don't brush your cat's teeth, plaque can eventually harden into tartar, the hard yellowish deposit on the surface of the teeth. Tartar is an important predisposing factor of gingivitis or the inflammation of the gums, which is the initial stage of periodontal disease. About 70% of cats have developed periodontal disease by the time they are 2 years old, but other dental issues can occur earlier. Bacteria that thrive on plaque build-up can get into the blood circulation and cause damage to the liver, kidneys, lungs, heart, and other major organs of the body.
Why your cat needs regular dental checkups
Your cat will benefit from regular dental checkups which will be performed by your veterinarian. These visits are important opportunities for your cat's mouth to be thoroughly examined for any signs of dental problems. Depending on the results of the examination, your veterinarian may find it necessary to carry out professional dental cleaning. Since the procedure requires that the cat has to be placed under general anesthesia for dental cleaning, blood work is done first to determine if the cat is healthy enough to be given an anesthetic drug. Once the cat is under anesthesia, it is now possible for the vet to perform a comprehensive cleaning procedure that will include the following:
- Complete oral exam and x-rays -- this can help identify problems that are occurring under the gum line
- Thorough cleaning under the gum line -- this is important in preventing periodontal disease
- Remove any buildup of plaque and tartar with dental scaling
- Polishing of teeth to prevent plaque buildup and bacteria.
How do I take care of my cat’s teeth? -- Tips for brushing your cat's teeth at home
- Introduce a tooth-brushing regimen to your pet cat as early as possible. Do it at the same time each day as cats are a creature of habit. Being consistent with the schedule will eventually make tooth brushing a part of the normal routine of your pet. The first few sessions should be short and positive. Let your cat get used to brushing by gently massaging his gums with your finger. Always reward your cat with his favorite treat after each tooth brushing session.
- Use a special toothbrush for the purpose, one that is designed for cats. The bristles of the toothbrush are softer and the size is smaller than that of a human toothbrush. There are also toothbrushes for cats that can be fitted over the finger. If you have several cats in the household, each one should have their own toothbrush. This is one way to avoid the transmission of bacteria between cats.
- Use toothpaste that is formulated for cats. Your toothpaste can have ingredients that can cause digestive upsets. There are flavored cat toothpaste you can use for the purpose. Place a small amount of cat toothpaste on your finger and let your cat lick it. Do this every day so your kitty can get used to the flavor and texture of the toothpaste.
- If your cat's gums are inflamed, be sure to have it checked by your vet before you brush his teeth.
- You can ask your veterinarian or any staff from the vet clinic to show you how to brush your pet's teeth properly.
Natural cat dental care -- How to keep cats teeth clean without brushing?
If your cat hates having his tooth brushed, there are cat dental care products that you can use for the purpose. These include the following:
- Chew toys
- Dental treats -- specifically formulated to slow down the formation of tartar and prevent the onset of dental disease.
- Dental chews
- Dental food for cats -- dry food diet or kibble that contains a higher fiber content which can exert a scraping action on the surface of the cat's teeth during chewing.
- Oral hygiene gels --formulated with enzymes that prevent the growth of bacteria that are responsible for the formation of plaque. The gels can be mixed with pet food or given directly to your cat.
Frequently Asked Questions
How can I clean my cat's teeth naturally?
There are many ways to clean your pet’s teeth naturally. These include the following:
- Daily tooth brushing
- Giving the right diet - specially-formulated kibble
- Natural dental supplements like vitamin C, calendula extract, and CoQ10
- Whole raw bones
- Dental chews or toys
- Dental gels and water additives
- How often do you need to brush your cat's teeth?
Veterinarians recommend daily or at least twice-a-week brushing to prevent plaque and tartar buildup and help ensure healthy teeth and gums.