Cats Veterinary inspection performing a dental clinic cat

Published on March 25th, 2016 | by Debbie Martin


Cats Dental Care

Cats use their mouths for more than just eating so a healthy mouth is vital for their health and pro activity. Cats are extremely good at hiding any problems with their mouth but if you want your cat to be able to eat properly, play happily, and groom themselves without any pain, then you need to check for dental problems.

The most common dental problems with domestic cats include gum disease, tooth resorption, and fractured teeth. When it comes to checking your cat, if they are not particularly tolerant to having their face handled then don’t force them and leave it to a vet. A vet will check the mouth at their usual health checks but you can always go in for extra check-ups if you have any concerns. Without having to get too close you may be able to notice bad breath and changes in your cat’s behaviour such as being less active, these can both be signs that there is something wrong.

If you can get a good look at your cat’s mouth, then here are some things you should be looking out for:

  • red gums
  • bleeding gums
  • loose teeth
  • loss of part of the tooth surface
  • enlarged gums.

To check your cat’s mouth properly you should hold their head still and separate their lips gently.

Gum Disease (Periodontal Disease):

Caused by the build-up of dental plaque, gum disease can cause teeth becoming loose and needing to be extracted. As plaque first starts to build up it can be initially hard to see as it is the same colour as the tooth, this first build up though can cause Gingivitis where the gums become inflamed; it is characterised by a red line around the gum where the gum meets the teeth. If this dental plaque is still not removed, it will turn into tartar which is a mineral deposit on the tooth. Tartar creates a rough surface which only makes it easier for plaque to stick and continue to build up.Veterinarian examining teeth of a cat while doing checkup at clinic

To prevent gum disease, it is important to have a dental regime for your cat. Probably the most effective and easy to administer is dental treats which have been specifically designed to remove plaque as the cat crunches down on the food. These are readily available and can be given every day. Therapeutic agents can ensure plaque control and can be applied both directly or indirectly. Tooth-brushing may sound a little ridiculous and near impossible for some cats but if your cat allows you to get that close to their mouth, a specifically designed cat toothbrush and toothpaste can be very effective in removing plaque. These work best when the cat’s gums are still healthy, professional dental cleaning may help the best if your cat already has tartar build up. Talk to your vet about oral care and what you can do regularly to ensure dental health.

Tooth Resorption:

Tooth resorption is when the surface of the tooth starts to be eaten away by the area of soft tissue against the tooth. It is seen as the gum overgrowing up the crown of the tooth and appearing red and inflamed. Although it is very common, it is unknown what causes these resorptive lesions and there seems to be no treatment so it is particularly important that you check your cat’s teeth regularly and take them to the vet if you notice any changes. Ideally a vet should check the oral health of your cat at least every six months.

Fractured Teeth:

Many things can cause fractured teeth in cats such as fighting and hunting; the canines are particularly susceptible to this as they are used often. A loss of the tip of the tooth shouldn’t be anything to worry but once even a small piece of the crown is lost then this can cause a lot of pain for the cat as the soft tissue inside the tooth is being exposed. Once you notice that your cat has lost the tip of one of their teeth, you should get a closer look to check if the soft tissue is exposed. You will be able to notice this as the middle of the fracture site will be pink or bleeding. Similarly, a black dot in the middle could be a small hole; both of these need to be treated straight away and you should never leave them. It is best to get your vet to check every broken tooth.

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About the Author

Debbie Martin has worked at Beeston Animal Health for over five years, having previously worked as a nurse in equine and small animal practice. Although generally involved with aspects of marketing these days and putting her psychology degree to good use, she still has a great depth of up to date knowledge in all creatures great and small. Debbie lives at home with her partner and two children and spends much of her spare time looking after her horses, dogs and cats or at the home farm with the cows, sheep and turkeys.

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