Cats

Cat dental care – how to properly care for your cat’s teeth

Have you ever checked your cat’s mouth and teeth? Not many cat owners think much about cat dental care and oral health. And it’s completely understandable. There are just so many other things to worry about, especially if you are new to this whole “owning a perfect little kitten” thing.

However, proper cat dental care and good dental health are extremely important for your pet’s wellbeing. 

Not many people know that dental health directly affects the whole body. Dental disease usually means there is an infection somewhere in the mouth. This infection can easily spread through the bloodstream and cause diarrhea or vomiting, and even heart disease, or liver or kidney problems. 

Then there is the pain factor.  Unfortunately for caring owners, cats are very good at masking pain. There are a few behavioral signs of pain in cats, however, when it comes to dental pain, they can hide it even better. And if you ever had teeth problems you know how extremely painful it can be. Cats feel the pain same as humans do, they are just masters at hiding it. 

You and your vet need to be proactive and regularly check your cat’s teeth and mouth to spot any problems.

So by maintaining proper cat dental care and oral hygiene you can actually help your pet live a longer, happier, and pain-free life.

Do cats teeth?

Did you know that kittens are born without teeth?  Cat baby teeth start to come out when they are about 2 weeks old. Those baby teeth start falling out at around 3 months of age. 

Cats have 26 baby teeth and 30 permanent teeth. Cat’s permanent teeth should last an entire lifetime, so proper dental care is really necessary. 

cat teeth and cat dental care

Cat teeth vs. human teeth

Cat teeth are optimized for hunting. They are made for tearing through their prey. 

Those large canine teeth (or fang teeth) are optimized for puncturing the skin of their prey. They are also the reason why are cat bites so deep, they hurt and get easily infected. If you ever get bitten by a stray cat, it’s always better to call your doctor.

Humans have flat molars, designed for grinding foods. It’s also the perfect place for sugar-eating bacteria which cause caries. Cats don’t have occlusal tables on their molars. Due to their diet and the shape of their teeth, cats don’t get those typical human cavities. Nevertheless, they can have other dental issues.

cat dental care and oral hygiene

At home cat dental care:

Proper cat dental care should be a 2 part process – home dental care and veterinary dental care. So let’s talk first about your home options on how to care for your cat’s teeth. 

→ 1. Inspect your cat’s mouth regularly

Look for any anomalies like bad breath, fractured teeth, redness…  Even if your cat is a tiny she-demon who doesn’t allow you to touch her mouth, you can at least smell her breath. If she smells like food it’s ok, if the smell is more foul you should take her to a vet. He’s been trained to deal with tiny bitting demons and can have a proper look 🙂

→ 2. Feed your cat dry food

Dry kibbles help mechanically clean your cat’s teeth and break down plaque. 

→ 3. If possible, brush your cat’s teeth

→ 4. Use cat dental care products

How to brush your cat’s teeth

Not many cats tolerate teeth brushing, but you can always give it a try, it’s worth it believe me.

You should start very slowly and for only very short periods. You can try using a Q-tip or just a piece of cotton cloth wrapped around your finger to just gently run along the gum line. 

Try to make the experience as positive as possible, with favorite treats and cuddling… you know your cat and what she likes. 

Stop the moment you notice your cat is getting stressed. This is a very slow process, don’t try to rush it.

If your cat learns to tolerate it, you can slowly try cleaning her teeth with cotton and slowly slowly slowly transition to a toothbrush and toothpaste.

If your cat learns to tolerate a toothbrush, congratulations 🙂

You need a lot of patience, don’t give up too soon. 

How to keep your cat's teeth clean without brushing

If your cat doesn’t tolerate brushing, that’s also ok. Don’t try to force it, there are other ways how you can take care of your cat’s teeth.  

There are several cat dental care products you can use at home to help with your cat’s oral hygiene. However, some may cause digestive problems, so please always check with your vet if the product you’ve chosen is really ok for your cat. The Veterinary Oral Health Council has created a list of approved products for cat oral hygiene. You can find it here.

Feeding your cat kibbles helps mechanically clean your cat’s teeth and break down plaque. There are also special dental kibbles on the market. 

However, I must say that these products work mostly when the teeth are clean. What I mean by that is, that they help keep your cat’s teeth clean for a long time after professional cleaning. They can’t really remove tartar and plaque from really dirty teeth. 

Veterinary cat dental care

Your cat’s dental health should be evaluated by a professional at least once a year, usually during regular annual wellness checkups and vaccinations. 

During this exam, your vet will closely inspect your cat’s mouth and teeth, looking for abnormalities like bad breath, fractured teeth, inflammation, cyst, or tumors…

Veterinary dental care is extremely important, even when you regularly brush your cat’s teeth since a significant portion of dental disease happens below the gumline. This area can be cleaned only with professional tools and under anesthesia. 

Sometimes your vet will need further diagnostic tools like X-rays to determine what’s going on in your cat’s mouth. 

Your vet will also tell you if your cat needs professional dental cleaning. 

cat teeth and cat dental care

Most common cat dental diseases

Unfortunately, there are several dental issues your cat can be suffering from, without you even noticing. That’s the reason why are professional dental checkups so necessary. 

The most common dental disease in cats and dogs is periodontal disease. It starts with plaque that hardens to tartar. Plague and tartar below the gumline are not so easily removed by teeth brushing and set the perfect conditions for bacterial infections. This can cause damage and inflammation of the tissues that connect the tooth to the bone and to the jawbone itself. 

Another cat “specialty” is tooth resorption. It’s a condition when the body starts to break up tooth material and replace it with bone-like material. The cause is still unknown and the whole process is extremely painful. 

Other common dental and oral conditions in cats are gingivostomatitis (severe oral inflammation) and abscesses and even cancer.

The conversation about your cat’s dental care should begin at a young age. Talk to your vet about your kitten’s teeth and how to properly care for them. Make sure your animal’s mouth is checked out at each vet visit.

Dental health is a part of your pet’s overall wellbeing. Dental hygiene is an integral part of preventive care and can save your pet from a lot of pain and even life-threatening conditions

You can (and should) practice cat dental care at home. Even if your cat doesn’t tolerate teeth brushing, you can use specialized cat dental care products, kibbles, and dry treats as part of your cat’s oral care routine. 

In addition, your pet should be regularly examined by a professional.

Regular professional dental cleaning is necessary for your pet’s health. 

If you want to learn more about pet health, you can sign up for my newsletter. Now you can get a free pet care planner as a bonus 🙂

This article is not intended to replace professional veterinary advice. If you have any medical concerns about your pet, consult a vet immediately. Always seek professional assistance if you are unsure of your pet’s health.

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