Caring for your cats’ teeth and gums are important for their daily lives. Periodontal disease is the most common problem seen in veterinary clinics. Daily care can be done to prevent the following problems.
Dental disease itself is caused by tartar and calculus accumulation onto the tooth surface. The tooth surface is home to over 1000 bacteria which multiply and produce plaque; some of this is removed by food and tongue action while the rest will mineralize creating tartar. The accumulation of tartar on the teeth will eventually build-up to the gums and then under the gum line where we can no longer see. It will lead to infection if not addressed.
Periodontal disease is inflammation of the bone and ligaments that support the tooth and is the body’s immune response to plaque. Once the bone and ligaments are destroyed, the teeth become loose and eventually will fall out. The empty socket will eventually be filled with bacteria causing disease which can spread into the bloodstream and eventually into the organs. The secondary effect on the organs can cause disease or increase organ system disease such as endocarditis.
Your cat may not show signs of dental disease even if they are in pain. Watch for:
- Pawing at the mouth
- Shaking head
- Dropping food or chewing with discomfort
- Blood tinged saliva
- Smelly breath (halitosis)
If dental disease is caught early enough and dental scaling and polishing of teeth is performed, most teeth and gums will have a full recovery. But if left untreated it may be irreversible.
Cats being as special as they also have another reason we must take care of their oral health. Cats can develop tooth resorption (Feline Oral Resorptive Lesion). The tooth slowly gets resorbed, and eventually, all tooth would be gone if left.
Half of the cats over the age of three most likely have at last one tooth affected. The lower premolars are primarily affected, but any tooth can develop this as well.
The cause is unknown, but the end result is the erosion of cementum, and once dentin is exposed, it is painful. Most cats will suffer in silence, watch for muscle spasms/trembling jaw, increased salivation, oral bleeding, or trouble eating. The best course of action once found, is to extract the tooth.
Dental care is very important for your cat. Start early in their lives. The best thing for them is to introduce the brushing of their teeth. Getting your cat used this does take time and persistence, but overall it does pay off for your cats’ health and your wallet. You can also feed special dental diets that are sold at your veterinary clinic, as well as water additives and various toys and chews. When looking around for dental products make sure you check for the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal, this is a guarantee that what the product says that it helps or prevents is proven to do so.
Preventative care is vital to control dental disease but having a full dental scaling and cleaning is also important in the maintenance of your cat’s teeth and gums, have a dental exam done by your veterinarian and see if this is right for your cat.
Written by: Meaghan, RVT