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Keeping Your Cat's Teeth Clean and Healthy: A Guide to Cat Dental Care

Regular toothbrushing, dental treats, chew toys, veterinary cleanings, and monitoring for signs of dental disease like bad breath and inflamed gums are key...

Cat dental care is just as important for cats as it is for humans. Poor dental care can lead to more than a bad breath – it can cause painful infections, tooth loss, and even systemic issues in other body parts. As cat owners, we play an important role in protecting our felines' teeth. But where do we start? This article will walk you through the basics of cat dental care, signs of problems to look out for, and tips for keeping your cat's mouth healthy.

The Importance of Oral Health

Cats are susceptible to many of the same dental diseases as people, including gingivitis, periodontitis, cavities, and tooth resorption. Bacteria builds up on the tooth surface, forming plaque, leading to tartar buildup and inflammation of the gums. Eventually, this can spread deeper below the gumline, destroying the tissues and bones that support the teeth. Poor dental health is not just a localized issue – it can create paths for bacteria to enter the bloodstream, potentially affecting internal organs like the heart, kidneys and liver. That’s why regular dental care is so critical for our feline companions.

Providing Proper Preventative Care

The best way to maintain good feline dental and oral health is to incorporate preventative daily care and regular veterinary cleanings. Here are some steps all cat owners should take:

  • Frequently brush teeth – Ideally, tooth brushing should be done daily. Use a soft-bristled brush and cat-safe toothpaste; do not use human toothpaste. Take it slow and reward with treats until your cat accepts it.

  • Provide dental treats/food – There are speciality dental diets, treats and kibble formulated to fight tartar. These help remove plaque when crunched.

  • Give chew toys – Chew toys scrape away tartar buildup as cats gnaw. Look for textured rubber toys they can sink their teeth into.

  • Add water to food – Canned food and water added to kibble help flush the mouth to clear debris. Dry food alone doesn’t provide enough abrasive cleaning.

  • Schedule veterinary cleanings – Your vet should examine your cat's teeth annually and perform professional dental cleanings as needed, usually once a year.

What to Look Out For — Signs of Periodontal Disease

Cats are notorious for hiding dental pain, so look for subtle signs of dental issues:

  • Bad breath – Stinky breath is often the first noticeable symptom of dental disease.

  • Red or inflamed gums – Gingivitis shows up as reddened, swollen, or bleeding gums.

  • Loose or lost teeth – Advanced periodontal disease can cause teeth to become loose and even fall out.

  • Shying away from dry food or toys – Sore teeth make cats hesitant to bite on crunchy foods.

  • Drooling – Dental pain can cause extra saliva production and drooling.

  • Weight loss – Difficulty eating due to dental problems often leads to decreased appetite and weight loss.

  • Pawing at the face and mouth – Face rubbing and increased licking can indicate mouth pain.

    See your vet our use the Felcana Symptom Checker if you notice any of these dental issues. The sooner periodontal disease is addressed, the better the outcome.

    Veterinary Dental Treatment and Cleanings

    While home care helps, and veterinarians should undertake regular dental checks, most cats eventually need a full cleaning and exam under anaesthesia by a veterinary dental specialist. Here’s an overview of this important 'gold standard' procedure:

    Before the cleaning:

    • 12-hour fast – Food must be withheld the night before to prevent vomiting under anaesthesia.

    • Pre-exam – The vet will examine the mouth and may take x-rays to check below the gumline.

    • IV catheter and fluids – An IV line provides anaesthesia medications and fluids during the procedure.

      During the cleaning:

      • Anesthesia – General anaesthesia makes the cleaning safe and pain-free for cats and veterinarians.

      • Scaling and polishing – Tartar and plaque are thoroughly scaled off above and below the gumline. The teeth are then polished smooth.

      • Fluoride treatment – Fluoride application helps strengthen enamel and prevent future cavities.

      • Tooth extractions – Teeth that are damaged or infected with severe gum disease are removed.

      • Medically treated – Antibiotics, pain meds, anti-inflammatories, and other medications may be administered as needed.

        After the cleaning:

        • Gradual recovery – Cats are closely monitored as they wake up from anaesthesia. Full recovery takes several hours.

        • Post-op exam – The vet will review the results of the cleaning and any extractions or other treatments done.

        • Home care – Brushing and other daily care are crucial to maintain the veterinary treatment and cleaning. Carefully follow all post-op instructions provided by your veterinarian.

          With general anaesthesia, dental cleanings allow for a thorough examination and complete treatment that can’t be achieved at home. Your vet can advise on how often your cat may need professional dental services depending on their health history and needs.

          Keeping your cat’s teeth healthy is an important part of overall wellbeing. Partner with your veterinarian and follow the steps outlined here to take great care of your feline’s dental needs all year. Consistent home care and regular professional cleanings can help avoid dental disease and keep your cat’s mouth pain-free.


          From healthy diets, brushing to chew toys to annual veterinary cleanings, we can make a big difference in our cats' dental health. Keep an eye out for warning signs of existing dental issues, and be proactive with preventative steps to maintain healthy teeth and prevent tooth decay. Although cats are private creatures by nature, their dental needs shouldn’t be overlooked. With vigilance and tender care, our felines' teeth can stay clean, healthy and happy for years to come.

          If you are concerned with your cat's dental health or any other care issues, please use the Felcana Symptom Checker to get advice on what to do.