Do Cats Get Toothaches? Common Feline Dental Health Problems

March 2, 2022
cat health

There are a variety of issues that can arise in cats whose dental health is neglected. Knowing what signs to look out for and how to start and maintain a regular dental hygiene routine will help you both feel good about your kitty’s dental health.

How to Identify Problems in Your Cat’s Teeth

Cats are prone to developing dental conditions like gingivitis, periodontal disease, and tooth resorption. Below, we’ll explore what each of these conditions is and what signs you need to look for. It is important to have annual dental checkups with your veterinarian, but if your cat shows any of the signs listed below, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.


Gingivitis is a dental condition that causes the gums to become painful, red, and inflamed. This inflammation is usually caused by an excessive build-up of plaque and bacteria. That’s why it’s important to institute proper at-home dental care (like brushing your cat’s teeth, if possible!) and visiting your veterinarian every year for dental check-ups You can discuss feeding your cat a diet that is scientifically created to prevent the development of plaque and tartar with your veterinary team.

Gingivitis can worsen the longer the plaque is left. The plaque bacteria can activate your cat’s immune system and cause further damage to the gingiva and surrounding tooth structures.

Signs of feline gingivitis:

  • Redness and swelling of the gums
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Bleeding gums
  • Difficulty eating and possible loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling
  • Halitosis (bad breath)

When left untreated, gingivitis can lead to periodontal disease.

Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a non-reversible condition. When a cat develops periodontal disease, the connective tissue that attaches the teeth to the gums becomes weakened by bacteria, causing inflammation and tooth loss.

Signs of feline periodontal disease:

  • Redness, swelling, or bleeding at the base of the teeth
  • Difficulty eating that could lead to loss of appetite
  • Excessive drooling and head tilting
  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Loose teeth
  • Receding gums
  • Pain

If you notice any of these symptoms you must visit your veterinarian as soon as possible. The treatment for feline periodontal disease may include dental radiographs, general anaesthesia, deep dental cleaning (to remove plaque and tartar) or even tooth extraction.

Tooth Resorption

Another common dental issue in cats is tooth resorption. Tooth resorption occurs when the inner structure of a tooth starts to break down. This will often lead to tooth loss. Although the root cause is not fully known, there are some clinical signs that you can look out for.

Signs of tooth resorption:

  • Resorptive lesions (pink marks on the teeth)
  • Pain and discomfort
  • Loss of appetite/difficulty eating
  • Behavioural changes such as irritability

If you notice any of these symptoms, visit your veterinarian immediately. Your cat will require a general anaesthetic and full mouth radiographs in order to make a professional diagnosis. Possible treatment options include pain management and extraction of the affected teeth, plus regular follow-ups and constant monitoring of the cat’s condition.

Common Signs of Dental Problems

Even if your cat does not show signs of these more serious dental diseases, it’s so important to keep looking out for common signs of early dental problems. This way you’ll be able to intervene before your cat’s dental health becomes more of a problem. The following factors indicate that your cat needs a veterinarian visit pronto!

  • Halitosis (bad breath)
  • Bleeding or dark lines on the gums
  • Swelling and/or inflammation of the gums
  • Excessive drooling or difficulty chewing
  • Loss of appetite
  • Pawing at the mouth

Remember, prevention of dental disease is key! This is why it’s important to keep up with regular annual dental checkups with your veterinarian even if symptoms are not yet visibly present. However, as soon as you notice any of these symptoms, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible.

Looking for tips on how to brush your cat’s teeth? Click here!

This article was reviewed by a Cat Healthy feline specialist veterinarian and sponsored by Hill’s Canada.

Subscribe to the Meow & Mail