How to Maintain Your Cat’s Dental Health
By Patricia Thomblison, DVM, MS
Dental disease is a common problem for cats. The older they are, the more likely they are to have tooth or gum problems with estimates that between 50 – 90% of cats older than four years of age have some form of dental disease. Much of the dental disease in cats can be avoided with routine care. Here’s a quick review.
Some of the same processes occurring in your mouth are also happening in your cat’s mouth. You may first notice it when your feline friend has “yucky tuna breath.” Can you imagine what your breath would smell like or how your teeth would look if you stopped caring for your own teeth? Not a pretty picture.
People can get in trouble because of the number of sweets they eat contributing to cavities. This isn’t a typical problem in cats, but they are prone to gum disease, which is also known as periodontal disease. There are two types of gum disease seen often in cats: gingivitis and periodontitis.
What’s the Difference Between Gingivitis vs. Periodontitis?
In gingivitis, the gums become inflamed due to the buildup of bacteria at or below the gum line. This happens when the sticky film on their teeth (plaque) hardens to form a thicker crusty layer (tartar). Gingivitis can be reversed with routine oral care.
If left untreated it can lead to periodontitis. Periodontitis is more severe and can lead to tooth loss. It’s very important to note that gum disease is preventable and almost never develops if teeth are kept clean.
FELINE TOOTH RESORPTION
Another common dental problem in cats is known as feline tooth resorption. Your veterinarian may also call it feline odontoclastic resorptive lesion or cervical line lesions. The exact cause of this disease is not known. Within each tooth is a chamber that contains blood vessels, lymphatic vessels, and nerves. The bony structure around this chamber is known as dentin.
In feline tooth resorption, the dentin erodes and is destroyed. This can happen to only one tooth, or it can affect multiple teeth and can be very painful. Cats are notorious for hiding their pain, but you may notice your cat react to contact, have a loss of appetite, maybe drool, or appear to not feel well. Sadly, the only effective treatment is the extraction of the affected teeth.
What You Can Do to Maintain Your Cat’s Dental Health?
All animals, including cats, can benefit from daily oral care. It is believed regular oral care can prevent gum disease and even extend the life of your pet. It’s important to establish a routine and stick to it.
The use of brushless products, such as Oratene® Brushless Oral Care, can help make it easier to accomplish. Beware not to use human toothpaste which may have ingredients that can harm your cat. It is also important to have regular veterinary exams and dental cleanings.
One of the best things you can also do is to share with your veterinarian if you notice a change in eating habits, the color of your cat’s gums, the odor of their breath, drooling, increased vocalization, or if your cat is hiding more than usual. These can all be topics your veterinarian will want to know.