Browse our veterinary-reviewed Dog and Cat Illness Guide to learn more about pet health. Always talk to your veterinarian if you have a concern about your pet's symptoms or health.
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Feline Dental Disease
Dental disease is a common disease found in more than two-thirds of cats over 3 years old.
Left untreated, bacteria can build up on the teeth. This advances to gingivitis--inflammation of the gums. Gingivitis develops into periodontal disease--inflammation of the bone and ligaments that support the teeth.
As the disease progresses, your cat will have tooth loss. The bacteria also can enter the bloodstream and infect other organs.
Dental disease is treatable and can be prevented. You must provide your cat with good dental care (at home and by your veterinarian) for it to have good dental health.
Dental disease starts with a build-up of brown or tan plaque. It is crucial to provide your cat with good dental care.
- Bad breath
- Painful mouth
- Red, inflamed gums
- Not wanting to chew on toys
- Dropping food from mouth
- Loss of appetite and weight loss
- Pawing at face
- Rubbing face on ground
- Colored nasal discharge
- Exam of your cat's teeth and gums
- Dental x-rays
- Blood tests
Your pet will need anesthesia for cleaning procedures. Your veterinarian will perform:
- Blood tests: to ensure liver and kidneys are functioning well enough for anesthesia
- Dental cleaning: ultrasonic scaling and polishing tools will remove plaque and tartar
- Dental Surgery: removal of badly affected teeth
- Medication: oral antibiotics
You won't be able to remove the plaque and tartar yourself because:
- You can only remove tartar above the gum line. There still may be tartar below the gum line, which will continue causing problems
- It's unsafe to clean the inner parts of the teeth while your cat is conscious.
- Using dental instruments may scratch their teeth, which will cause further damage. Your veterinarian will polish the scratches to prevent this
- Annual oral exams
- Brush your cat's teeth daily with toothpaste made for pets only! Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are poisonous for pets. Your veterinarian will instruct you how to brush your cat's teeth. It is crucial to brush their teeth daily, as plaque and tartar can build up just six hours after a cleaning
- Your veterinarian can prescribe a dental diet to remove plaque as your cat chews
- You can add certain gels and liquids to your pet's drinking water
- Give your cat special chew toys which are designed to reduce tartar
If you take care to give your cat proper veterinary oral care and continue the care at home, they will have healthy teeth and gums, and avoid dental disease.
Medically Reviewed by Sara Ochoa, DVM