Oral healthcare for our cats is an important part of their daily care. Like humans, cats need daily care of their teeth and require a checkup with their dentist (veterinarian) every 6 to 12 months.
Without ongoing veterinary monitoring and care of our cat’s teeth, any attempts to clean them at home may be dangerous and/or painful.
Cats can develop a number of dental problems. This includes tartar, gingivitis, fractures, abscesses and root infections. One of the most common dental problems in cats is tooth resorption.
Tooth resorption is a condition in which the tooth begins to break down. It is a painful and slow process for the cat, as the tooth gradually disintegrates, exposing the sensitive pulp cavity.
You won’t know these lesions are present, because your cat won’t show signs of pain, will continue to eat, and most likely will not let you look in his/her mouth.
Your veterinarian is trained and equipped to diagnose feline dental problems. A physical examination may reveal problems but a general anesthetic and dental x-rays are often required to make a full and proper assessment.
If you want to pursue home dental care for your cat, it is best to ensure that your veterinarian has assessed the cat’s mouth for signs of disease first.
If you commence an oral health program at home and your cat has diseased teeth, you may be inflicting further pain. As a result, any future attempts at caring for your cat’s mouth will be near to impossible. Ensuring your cat has good oral health to start with is key!
There are treats, foods, liquids and other items that claim to be able to limit or even eliminate tartar, plaque and gingivitis. If you are considering one of these products, be sure to look for the Veterinary Oral Health Council seal (http://www.vohc.org) and ask your veterinarian. Some of these products may be helpful, but nothing replaces brushing your cat’s teeth.
Your veterinarian may have dental care products available for your cat that provide a variety of options for ‘brushing’. These include flavoured fluoride-free toothpaste (chicken or malt), small toothbrushes, gauze and instructions on oral home care for your cat. Your veterinary team can show you how to use these products, and give you tips on working with your cat to determine what type of care your cat prefers. Some cats will permit actual brushing of the teeth, while others prefer to chew the brush or have their teeth rubbed with gauze.
Your veterinarian can also provide dental kibbles that are labeled for dental care in cats. These do not replace brushing. Working closely with your veterinary team and patiently with your cat, you will find the best success in maintaining your cat’s oral health in the years to come.