Nearly 70 percent of cats ages 3 and older have symptoms of dental disease. Many of those cats will never receive any home dental care, and the condition of their teeth will worsen every year for the rest of their lives. Just like humans, cats get tartar buildup and gum disease too. The only difference is cats don’t brush their teeth, that’s where YOU can help. Regular teeth brushing, and annual dental cleanings help prevent severe dental disease which can lead to other serious health issues such as heart, liver and kidney disease.
What is involved in a dental cleaning procedure?
During a dental cleaning (sometimes called a prophylaxis), plaque and tartar are removed from your cat’s teeth, and the health of the entire mouth (tongue, gums, lips, and teeth) is assessed. A thorough dental cleaning can be accomplished only while the pet is under general anesthesia. Anesthesia keeps your cat free of pain during the dental procedure and allows your veterinarian to fully inspect the teeth and remove tartar from under the gums. During anesthesia, a soft plastic tube is inserted into the trachea (the main airway in the throat) to support your cat’s breathing. Placement of the tracheal tube also prevents inhalation of bacteria that are aerosolized during the dental cleaning.
A dental cleaning may include the following:
- Removal of visible plaque and tartar from the teeth
- Elimination of plaque and tartar from under the gum
- Probing of dental sockets to assess dental disease
- Polishing to smooth enamel scratches that may attract bacteria
- Dental radiographs (X-rays) to evaluate problems below the gum line
- Application of fluoride
- Removal or repair of fractured or infected teeth
- Dental charting so progression of dental disease can be monitored over time
- Inspection of the lips, tongue, and entire mouth for growths, wounds, or other problems.
What are signs of dental problems in cats?
Regular inspection of your cat’s mouth is important to catch a dental disease in the early stages. Tartar may appear as a brownish-gold buildup on the teeth, close to the gum line. Redness or bleeding along the gum line may indicate gingivitis. Other signs of dental disease include:
- Bad breath
- Sudden preference to soft food over dry
- Pawing at the mouth
- Difficulty chewing or favoring one side of the face/mouth
- Loose, broken, or missing teeth
If you notice any of these signs in your cat, schedule an appointment with one of our veterinarians.
Are some breeds more susceptible than others?
Yes, Maine Coons, Persians, and Siamese cats tend to have more dental issues than most other breeds.
What is feline tooth resorption?
Tooth resorption is a disease process where the tooth starts being resorbed back into the jaw. This can start anywhere on the tooth but most commonly at the gingival attachment of the crown and eventually makes its way to the crown of the tooth. The crown may eventually break off because it has been weakened. The cause of this process is unknown but is fairly common in cats. It causes significant amounts of discomfort and requires extraction of the affected tooth.