Dental disease is very common in cats. Surveys show that after the age of three years, about seven out of ten cats have some kind of tooth disorders. If left unattended these may cause irreversible damage to the cat’s teeth, gums and jaw bones. Dental disease can be prevented by stopping the build up of plaque. Please Contact Us for more information on Dental Healthcare in your cat.
How do I know if my cat has tooth disease?
Plaque is a yellowish white deposit made up of bacteria and debris which forms around the surface of the teeth. In time it hardens to become yellowish brown tartar (sometimes called calculus) at the base of the tooth which gradually spreads until it may cover the whole of its surface. As well as the visible tartar there may be other indications of disease.
Foul breath is very common and the pain resulting from advanced dental disease may cause difficulties in eating. If your cat dribbles excessively and sometimes this is flecked with blood or shows signs of pain and discomfort such as head shaking and pawing at its mouth. It may have problems with its teeth.
How does dental disease affect my cat’s health?
The tartar hidden below the gum line is the main cause of problems. It contains bacteria which will attack the surrounding gum tissue causing painful inflammation (‘gingivitis’) and infection can track down to the tooth roots. Pus may build up in the roots and form a painful abscess.
This inflammation wears away tissue from the gum, bones and teeth and, as the disease becomes more advanced, the teeth will loosen and fall out. Bacteria and the poisons they produce can also get into the blood stream and cause damage throughout the body in organs such as the kidneys, heart and liver.
How can dental disease be treated?
Loose teeth will have to be removed because the disease is too advanced to be treated. The first stage of treatment for the remaining teeth will usually be antibiotics to get rid of the bacteria infecting the gums. Then your cat will be given a general anaesthetic so that your vet can remove the tartar, usually with an ultrasonic scaling machine.
Finally, your cat’s teeth will be polished to leave a smooth surface which will slow down the build up of plaque in the future. However, it is inevitable that plaque will re-appear. To keep your cat’s teeth in good condition it is likely that they will need regular scaling and polishing, in some cases at intervals of between six and twelve months.
Will a change in diet help control dental disease?
In the wild your cat’s teeth would be much cleaner because its diet would contain harder materials than are found in commercially tinned or packaged foods. Cats naturally eat the bones, fur and feathers of mice or small birds which wear away the deposits of tartar.
Replacing soft foods with dry or fibrous materials will slow the build up of plaque. The extra chewing involved helps control infection because it stimulates the production of saliva which has natural antibiotic properties.
What else can I do to keep my cat’s teeth clean?
Brushing your cats teeth is just as important in preventing dental disease as brushing your own. Ideally your cat should get used to having its teeth cleaned from an early age.
Wrapping a piece of soft gauze around your finger and gently rubbing the cat’s teeth should get it used to the idea. You can then move on to using a toothbrush specially designed for cats or a small ordinary toothbrush with soft bristles. Toothbrushes which fit over the end of your finger are available for cats.
Your vet can supply you with suitably flavoured toothpaste which cats will enjoy. There are also some mouth washes and antibacterial gels that can help reduce plaque deposits and prevent infection. Do not attempt to use human toothpaste which will froth up in the mouth, your cat will not like the taste and it could do it serious harm.
What if my cat doesn’t like having its teeth brushed?
At first your cat may resist but with gentleness, patience and persistence most cats can be trained to accept having their teeth cleaned. A regular brushing every day or at least three times a week will significantly reduce the risk of your cat suffering serious problems or needing frequent general anaesthetics to treat advanced dental disease.
Preventative healthcare for your cat is very important. Regular brushing of your cat’s teeth from a young age can prevent the need for veterinary dental attention.