Keeping cats’ teeth clean and in pristine condition is often an overlooked aspect of cat ownership. Indeed, eight out of ten cats over the age of three will develop some form of teeth or gum disease in their lifetime. Dental health is all about preventative care, and by the time an owner is reacting to problematic teeth, some of the damage may be irreversible. It is important to take your cat for regular check-ups at the vet so their teeth and gums can be examined by a professional. Some regular cleaning routines should be maintained throughout a cat’s life to prevent the build-up of harmful bacteria, tartar and plaque. This blog post explores all of the possible options.
Checking Your Cat’s Teeth At Home
The general degradation of gums, teeth and the structures that hold teeth in place is called periodontal disease. This is the most common disease in adult cats but is mostly preventable.
Cats’ teeth should be clean, white and clear of any plaque build-up. Their gums shouldn’t have any sores or lesions present, and the best sign of a healthy gum line is a bright pink layer of skin without any redness or swelling. Checking your cat’s teeth also provides you with an opportune moment to look for any foreign objects that might be stuck between their teeth or at the back of their throat.
Bad breath is also a sign of deteriorating gums and/or teeth. Bad breath can be a sign of infection or the first stages of periodontal disease. Persistent bad breath shouldn’t be ignored but monitored and acted on if the smell remains for an extended period.
Tooth Pain – Signs To Look Out For
Cats are good at acting and are adept at hiding pain. There are some tell-tell signs though that a cat is suffering from dental pain:
- Eating less food than normal.
- Having a preference for soft food (rather than dry biscuits).
- Pushing food to one side of their mouth to eat.
- Persistent bad breath.
- A noticeable behavioural change, either being more reclusive or distant.
If you notice any of these problems, we suggest taking your cat to the vet for a quick check-up.
Keeping Your Cat’s Teeth Clean
Twice-weekly brushing is the key to keeping your cat’s teeth healthy. Adult cats can be much more difficult to train and can sometimes be openly hostile when first introducing them to brushing. Therefore, starting to brush your cat’s teeth at a young age is the best way to train them and get them used to the routine. Note – a kitten must be at least six months old before being introduced to brushing.
It should be noted that you should never use human toothpaste for this. Cat-specific toothpaste is required, which can be found in most veterinary practices or pet shops. It is often flavoured with chicken or beef to make the experience more acceptable for cats.
The best way to clean your cat’s teeth is to go at a slow pace and ensure that they are as comfortable as possible. This often entails cradling their body so their head is supported, then tilting their head back and opening their mouth by pressing gently on their chin. Introducing the brush gradually, often over many short sessions in the first month, is the best way to get them used to the feeling and motion of their teeth being brushed. Some cats can be resistant to this at first, but patience and perseverance are key. Wearing a protective finger guard or rubber glove will help to keep your digits safe as you begin this process. This training guide by Cats Protection is a good place to start for handling best practice.
There are also many products in pet shops that are focused on maintaining dental hygiene in cats. These products work by abrasive action and will scrape the teeth clean of plaque as the cat eats them. These products will also help to fight any bacteria build-up in your cat’s mouth but should not be used as a substitute for weekly brushing. You can also buy dental sprays from your vet that are easy to spray into your cat’s mouth once a day to control their plaque and tartar levels.
In summary, some top tips to keep your cat’s teeth in pristine condition include:
- Be proactive about your cat’s dental hygiene with brushing and relevant toothpaste.
- Don’t ignore bad breath.
- Take your cat for annual check-ups at the vets.
- Stick to your cat’s dental hygiene routine.
- Avoid excessive treats.