Cat Dental Health

Cat dental health problems are common in cats, especially as they age. Some cats are more prone to dental problems than others, but it isn't something you can predict when they're young.

The good news is there are some easy ways you can help keep your kitty's teeth healthy.

In the wild, when cats eat prey, the biting, tearing and cutting action has a natural abrasive, cleaning effect on their teeth. A lot of domestic cats, on the other hand are fed soft, sticky, processed foods that require virtually no chewing. The result of this is often a heavy build-up of tartar on their teeth. Here are some common questions and answers about cat dental health:

Preventing Cat Dental Problems Caused By Tartar

1) What is tartar and how does it form?

cartoon of ginger smiling cat

Tartar begins on cat teeth as a thin film of dental plaque. This is a sticky, colorless deposit of bacteria that starts where the gum and tooth meet. Food that's stuck around the gum and tooth margin provides an ideal environment for these bacteria to multiply.

If the plaque isn't removed, salts and minerals eventually stick to the plaque and a hard, cement-like build-up occurs that is very difficult to remove. This is tartar.

2) What are the long term effects of tartar?

The cat's mouth becomes inflamed and painful around the gum / tooth margin, which may put him off eating. The tooth may loosen in its socket due to erosion by bacteria. This makes chewing very painful. Eventually the tooth could fall out.

3) What are the signs of tartar build-up?

Common signs include:

  • Foul smelling breath - this page on feline bad breath gives more advice
  • Drooling
  • Pain when eating, cat is reluctance to chew
  • Dropping of food from mouth
  • Reddened, inflamed gum margin. You can easily see this by gently pulling back your cat's lips to expose his teeth and gums

4) How can tartar be treated?

picture of cat showing teeth

If the tartar has built up enough, your cat may need to get his teeth cleaned under general anesthetic. However, if the build-up is small, there are things you can do that will help slow or even reverse the process.

5) How can I prevent tartar build-up on my cat's teeth?

The most important thing is your cat's diet. In addition to soft, processed foods, your cat should also be fed strips or chunks of meat, and some good quality hard, dry foods. This will help to naturally clean his teeth and prevent tartar build-up.

You can also brush your cat's teeth once a week, if he'll let you. You can get cat toothbrushes and toothpaste from your vet. Don't use human toothpaste, as cats hate both the taste and foaming action.

6) How do I brush my cat's teeth?

Put some of Kitty's toothpaste onto his toothbrush. Place him on a table or counter, with his head facing away from you. Gently lift up his upper lip on one side and rub his back teeth. Repeat on the other side, and at the front if he'll let you. Many cats will tolerate this pretty well, and some even enjoy it.

The secret to good cat dental health is prevention. Feeding Kitty dry food and fresh meat as part of his diet and cleaning his teeth regularly will greatly reduce the risk of tartar build-up and all its associated problems.

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