Illustrated Articles

Cats + Dental

  • More than half of all cats over the age of three have periodontal disease. Brushing three times a week is the minimum recommendation to help remove plaque and prevent tartar accumulation. In order to be successful at brushing your cat’s teeth, you must make it a positive experience for both of you. Do not use human toothpaste or baking soda. A list of dental products and diets that have been accepted by the Veterinary Oral Health Counsel can be found at vohc.org.

  • Periodontal disease is the most common problem affecting cats of all age groups. The very best way to prevent periodontal disease is daily dental home care. However, it is useful to add in effective, evidence-based dental food to provide appropriate daily plaque control.

  • Cleaning your cat’s teeth every day at home will help prevent plaque and tartar build-up. Use of a pet toothpaste is recommended, but even wiping a Q-tip across your cat’s teeth and gums goes a long way to reduce plaque and tartar accumulation. For proper dental evaluation and care, your cat must be safely placed under general anesthesia. The examination usually includes dental X-rays and probing to evaluate gum bleeding and periodontal pockets. Tooth scaling will be performed, using both hand and ultrasonic scalers, to remove tartar above and below the gum line.

  • Dental disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a condition in which the tissues supporting the teeth become inflamed. When a pet develops dental disease, significant quantities of bacteria reside within the mouth and the oral tissues. These bacteria can enter the bloodstream and travel to other areas, specifically the heart, liver, and kidneys, causing distant or systemic effects. The bacteria that are found within the mouth of pets with dental disease are the same bacteria associated with both endocarditis and valvular disease in dogs and cats.

  • According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, over 70% of cats have signs of dental disease by the time they reach 3 years of age. Dental pain in cats may take on a wide variety of appearances, but in many cases a cat may not show any outward signs of pain. Sometimes cats may exhibit signs such as decreased interest in eating dry food or hard treats, chewing more slowly than usual, dropping food while chewing, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, new or worsening resistance to having the face or mouth touched. The only effective treatment for dental pain is to address the cat’s underlying dental disease. The best way to prevent dental pain is to ensure that your cat receives regular dental care through a home dental care plan and regular veterinary dental care.

  • The center of the tooth is referred to as the root canal and contains soft tissue called pulp. Root canal involves removing the pulp from the center of an injured tooth, sterilizing the canal, and replacing the removed pulp with dental materials preventing bacteria from penetrating the center of the tooth. If your cat breaks a tooth to the extent that the pulp tissue is exposed, bacteria and oral debris enter the tooth resulting in pulpitis. Once a tooth is broken with the pulp exposed there are only two choices for treatment: root canal therapy or extraction. Root canal therapy is less invasive than extraction but requires advanced training and specialized equipment. Your veterinarian can help you find a board-certified veterinary dentist.

  • Alveolar osteitis is a relatively common condition that is the result of chronic periodontal disease in cats. It can occur around the upper or the lower canine teeth.

  • Fractured teeth in cats can result from fights, car accidents, and chewing on hard objects. There are five classifications of tooth fractures and each needs treatment to avoid tooth sensitivity and pain. Because cats have thin enamel, even a small chip fracture can cause pain and needs veterinary care. Clinical signs include chewing on one side of the mouth, excessive drooling, pawing at the mouth, and facial swelling.

  • Gingivitis is a medical term that refers to inflammation of the gums. Stomatitis may involve the gums, tongue, inner surfaces of the lips, and/or the floor and roof of the mouth. Gingivitis may be caused by a bacterial infection from plaque bacteria on the teeth and is usually associated with poor oral hygiene and can lead to more severe periodontal disease. The cause of stomatitis in dogs is unknown but may be caused by a hyperimmune response of the gum tissues to bacterial biofilm. The first step of treatment is a complete oral health assessment under general anesthesia combined with a thorough cleaning of the teeth. A consistent homecare program will improve your pet’s prognosis for gingivitis. The prognosis for stomatitis is variable depending on the pet.

  • Bad breath (halitosis) is caused by bacteria, plaque, tartar, decomposing food particles, or death of tissue. Treatment of halitosis in cats involves eliminating the cause(s). The teeth need to be thoroughly cleaned and polished under general anesthesia. Teeth affected by advanced periodontal disease or tooth resorption need to be extracted. Reducing the accumulation of plaque, tartar, and resulting halitosis can be achieved by using VOHC accepted products.