As a cat owner, you want what’s best for your feline family member and have likely turned to the Internet to learn about home dental care for cats and whether your cat’s teeth need professional cleaning. Unfortunately, not all of the information presented online is accurate. Here at Owings Mills Veterinary Center, we’re passionate about helping cat owners give their furry friends the best lives possible. That’s why we decided to answer some of the most commonly asked questions about cat dentistry. We’re glad you found this resource and hope it contains the information you need.
If your cat needs a dentist in Owings Mills, MD, let us help. When it comes to maintaining healthy cat teeth, it all starts with an exam. Call us now at (410) 807-8193 to schedule an appointment and get your cat on the road to a healthy smile.
What is involved in cat dental care?
Cat dental care consists of two main components: Home care and veterinary care. The home care portion includes brushing three to four times per week (we can teach you how to brush your cat’s teeth) and feeding dental diets and treats to help control plaque and tartar. This is vital because plaque and tartar are significant problems in cats and lead to gingivitis and periodontal disease.
Veterinary care includes professional exams, x-rays, cleanings, and other services performed in our office.
How does dental health impact the overall health of my cat?
Dental health is a critical component of your cat’s overall health. What happens to the mouth affects the whole body, so disease affecting the teeth and gums impacts nearly every aspect of a cat’s well-being. In fact, keeping your cat’s mouth healthy adds two to three years to their life. Keeping up with dental care is essential for comfort because gingivitis and periodontal disease cause pain.
Without proper dental care, cats can experience a wide range of problems, including:
- Loose or broken teeth
- Heart, kidney, and liver damage
- Inability to eat
What types of dental care should I be doing at home?
Brushing your cat’s teeth is the best way to prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Unfortunately, not all cats cooperate with at-home brushings. As vets, we are here to help you better understand how to brush your cat’s teeth. We can also recommend appropriate cat teeth cleaning products, including toothbrushes and pet-specific toothpaste.
Dental diets, treats, and water additives help keep cats’ teeth healthy between professional cleanings. We recommend visually examining your cat’s mouth regularly and contacting us at (410) 807-8193 at the first sign of any problems affecting their teeth or gums.
What are some signs and symptoms that a person might see to know that their cat has dental issues?
Bad breath is the number one sign of dental problems. Though many pet parents think foul-smelling breath is normal, it often indicates an underlying problem. Cats are masters of hiding signs of pain and illness, but there are subtle signs to watch for.
A few of the most common signs of dental issues in cats include:
- Tooth discoloration (cat teeth tartar)
- Decreased appetite
- Dropping food while eating
- Shifting food from one side of the mouth to the other
- Ulcers in the mouth
- Swelling in or around the mouth
- Cat losing teeth
- Cat grinding teeth
- Cat chattering teeth
Keep a close eye on your cat’s behavior, and monitor their food intake. Because cats are so good at hiding their symptoms, even subtle changes warrant a veterinary visit.
What are the things you look for when you examine a cat's mouth?
When examining a cat’s mouth, we look for plaque and tartar buildup on the teeth. We also closely look at the gums to check for signs of gingivitis, inflammation caused by disease beneath the gum line, and common oral health problems.
Cats are prone to oral health problems such as:
- Tooth resorption
- Tumors, growths, and lesions
Stomatitis is a severe allergic reaction of the mouth to the teeth and causes pain and significant dental issues. Without treatment, it can even be fatal. Tooth resorption is another painful condition in which a cavity below the gum line causes the teeth to be reabsorbed by the body. We check for these issues during your cat’s dentistry appointment, plus things like tumors, growths, and lesions.
How do you diagnose dental problems in cats?
Aside from a comprehensive visual examination, we perform dental x-rays while the patient is under general anesthesia to get a clear picture of exactly what’s going on inside their mouth. X-rays allow us to view the portion of the tooth that lies below the gum line, enabling us to spot cavities, root decay, and other problems that are not visible during a visual exam.
What are some possible conditions that are caused by poor dental health? And what are the treatments?
Periodontal disease is the biggest problem associated with a lack of dental care. While it typically begins as plaque and tartar, it quickly leads to gingivitis, which causes infection in the roots of the teeth. The mouth is connected to the rest of the body by the bloodstream, and once the infection enters the bloodstream and spreads to the heart, kidneys, and liver, it causes organ damage and can lead to a terminal situation.
When we detect periodontal disease in its earliest stages, a professional cleaning can stop its progression. Sometimes, we need to extract badly damaged and diseased teeth to prevent further detriment to the patient’s health. In cases of advanced disease, we must treat infections and address organ dysfunction. The exact treatments vary depending on the nature and severity of the problem.
The Cornell Feline Health Center is an excellent resource if you have questions about feline dental disease. As your cat’s veterinarian, we are also here to address any questions or concerns you may have. If you are in or near Owings Mills, MD, give us a call today at (410) 807-8193.