Cats aren't as susceptible to cavities as are humans, but that doesn't mean their dental health can go without supervision. In fact, cats are most prone to periodontal disease, which occurs when leftover bits of food harden into tartar and cause inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). The inflamed gums recede, eventually causing tooth loss. Up to 70 percent of housecats are vulnerable to periodontal disease by the age of three.
In the wild, cats are able to keep their teeth clean by chewing on bones and grass. Those options are not readily available to most housecats, though. Below are steps you can take to make sure you're looking after your cat's teeth the best you know how.
Your cat's veterinarian will keep an eye on your cat's dental hygiene during office visits. But in between visits, you should maintain watch over your cat's teeth. This can be a tricky proposition because cats don't exactly enjoy having their mouths prodded and handled. Fortunately, there are warning signs that you can keep an eye out for.
Cat's breath doesn't smell great to begin with, but smelling it for changes in stench is one way to monitor their dental health. Another sign to watch for is broken or discolored teeth and inflamed or bleeding gums. Even though your cat probably won't like it when you feel around his mouth, you can watch closely to see whether any of your prodding is causing him specific discomfort. All these warning signs are helpful to keep in mind.
There are several active treatments to help you keep your cat's mouth healthy. One is to brush his teeth a few times a week. That task might seem daunting, but settling into a routine of sorts is better than paying your vet several hundred dollars to clean your cat's teeth under general anesthetic. Be sure to choose a toothbrush and toothpaste designed specifically for cats – experts warn against using toothpaste meant for humans. Another measure you can take is to conduct a home exam of your own. Waiting for the cat to be calm and quiet, you can lift the cat's lips gently to check for inflammation of the gums and any loose or cracked teeth. The third measure you can take is to feed your cat specifically designed teeth-cleaning treats. The fourth proactive measure is an annual dental examination at the vet's office, where they can professionally assess your cat's dental status.
If your cat's teeth need professional cleaning, your veterinarian will conduct a pre-assessment of the damage and take note. Your cat will be placed under general anesthetic for the duration of the procedure. The vet will begin by scaling away tartar above and below the gum line. If the periodontal disease is advanced, your vet may not be able to save some of your cat's teeth. The vet will then polish your cat's teeth to prevent plaque buildup.
In the end, preventative care is what's important here. Taking time out to brush your cat's teeth a few times a week will save you money in the end. If your cat is purely indoors, they are more susceptible to cavities, so keep up with your cat's dental hygiene and don't forget to schedule those annual exams.