Dental disease is a reality for most cats. By age four, many cats have significant gingivitis, and many also have periodontal disease. It is a slow progressing but serious disease that causes pain and affects the cat's overall health and well-being. Cats hide illnesses well and so they do not show signs of oral discomfort readily. Because the pain associated with dental problems comes on slowly over time, they simply learn to live with it. This is why it is important that all cats see a veterinarian annually to assess their oral health.
What Is Proper Dental Hygiene For Your Cat's Teeth?
There are several ways to ensure proper cat dental care. All of them involve diligence and commitment from you as a cat owner. Your feline friend will not tell you that dental care is needed, so it is up to you to proactively address his or her needs.
- Good nutrition is the foundation for good dental health.
- If possible, establish a cat dental cleaning routine when your cat is young.
- Schedule semi-annual exams for cats.
- Watch for signs of possible dental issues such as bad breath, difficulty chewing, grinding, salivating, dropping food, or decreased appetite.
- Tell your vet during the checkup about any behaviors you've noticed, or concerns you have.
- Early prevention is extremely important to avoid or treat serious dental issues.
Proper cat teeth cleaning consists of an oral exam and X-rays under anesthesia in order to properly diagnose any dental disease that may be present. Most dental disease in cats occurs under the gum line. Many cats produce feline odontoclastic resorption lesions (FORL) in their teeth. These are cavity-like lesions at the neck of the tooth (where the gum meets the tooth). These lesions cause the roots to be resorbed and are painful. Unfortunately, your cat will naturally adapt to live with the pain these lesions cause. In these cases, the treatment usually requires the extraction of the affected tooth/teeth. Not all cats are plagued with feline odontoclastic resorption lesions (FORL). A thorough exam involving X-rays taken by your vet can determine if your cat is living with these lesions. Treatment is important. However, cats who produce these lesions are likely to produce more in their lifetime and will require annual care.
How Often Is It Necessary To Clean A Cat's Teeth?
The recommended frequency of cleaning your cat's teeth depends upon several factors such as:
- Existence of other health conditions
Regardless of signs or symptoms, your cat should have a dental checkup annually at a minimum. While you should be looking at your cat's teeth periodically yourself, it is easy to miss the types of problem signs that a trained and experienced veterinarian will recognize. It is significantly easier to address and resolve dental issues that are spotted early, compared to dental issues that go unnoticed and are allowed to further develop. Therefore, a proactive approach to feline dentistry is recommended.
Many cats will allow you to brush their teeth. You should brush your cat's teeth daily with specially designed brushes and feline hygiene products. Our technicians are trained to provide instructions on how you can brush your cat's teeth at home. Let us work with you to ensure the best possible dental health for your cat.
Gum Disease In Cats
Gum disease also known as gingivitis, can become periodontal disease if it spreads to the teeth. This condition affects a cat's gums and the portions of his or her teeth below the gum line and may include feline odontoclastic resorption lesions (FORL). Periodontal disease is considered the most prevalent illness in cats over three years of age. However, it is also the most under-diagnosed, as many cat owners unfortunately just do not realize the importance of cat dental care. Although the detection of cat gum disease can be subtle, periodic veterinary checkups every 6 - 12 months can be effective in helping diagnose cat gum disease before it becomes severe.
Gum disease has four stages:
- Early gingivitis
- Advanced gingivitis
- Early periodontitis
- Established periodontitis
Gum disease in cats is only reversible if caught early on, and only the early gingivitis stage is considered fully reversible.
Cat Tooth Extraction
Reasons for cat tooth extraction can include:
- Retained deciduous (baby) teeth
- FORLs or teeth that are severely infected are always considered for extraction.
- Severe periodontal disease
- Cats that suffer from root abscess or jaw fractures may be treated with either root canal therapy or tooth extractions based on the severity.
Common Cat Dental Problems
- Plaque build-up
- Periodontal disease
- Tooth loss
- Mouth sores and ulcers
- Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL)
- And, as in humans, kidney, liver, and heart disease
Cats are very adept at hiding the symptoms of pain and illness. Bad breath is the only symptom of dental problems that you are at all likely to observe in your cat. If your cat has noticeable bad breath, you should schedule a dental exam with your veterinarian. However, in severe cases you may also notice one of the following symptoms:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Problems eating, loss of appetite
- Red, swollen, bleeding gums
- Loose, broken, or missing teeth
- Blood in saliva or nasal discharge
- Lesions in the mouth
- Weight Loss
Your cat may very well have dental issues that require attention but NOT show any of the symptoms listed above. However, if any of the above symptoms are observed, please schedule a veterinary appointment right away.
Schedule A Cat Dental Care Appointment
Scheduling a cat dental care appointment is as easy as picking up the phone or scheduling on-line. Our staff is here to help make your trip to the dentist easy for you while making it as painless and comfortable for your feline friend as possible.