With major advances in treating pet diseases, oral disease (periodontal or gum disease caused by the build-up of plaque and tartar) has become the number-one health problem for cats.
It's estimated that without proper dental care 70% of cats will show signs of oral disease by age three. With your help, your cat can have healthy teeth and gums throughout their lives.
Keeping your cat's teeth healthy is easy:
- Provide a nutritious diet
- Provide chew treats
- Perform regular brushing of your cats teeth at home (our nurses will show you how)
- Book yearly dental checkups with a veterinary surgeon
The best food for your cat's teeth
Feeding your cat a dry food rather than just a moist, canned one will, through its mild abrasive action on the teeth, help remove the bacterial plaque that can harden into tartar.
Dry food also provides adequate chewing exercise and gum stimulation.
Avoid giving your cat sweets and table scraps as they may also increase plaque and tartar formation.
Your vet may recommend the use of a dental diet, which is a specially formulated dry biscuit designed to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, especially if your cat is prone to dental problems.
How to brush your cat's teeth
Cats need to have their teeth brushed in order to eliminate the dental plaque that can cause tooth decay and the formation of tartar, which can lead to gum disease.
You should begin a regular daily brushing routine as soon as you bring your new kitten home. Even older cats can be trained to accept having their teeth brushed. You simply need to introduce the activity gradually and make the experience a positive one for your cat. Reassure and praise them profusely throughout the process.
1. Start by dipping a finger in tuna water or warm water. Rub this finger gently over your cat’s gums and one or two teeth. Repeat until your pet seems fairly comfortable with this activity.
2. Gradually introduce a gauze-covered finger and gently scrub the teeth with a circular motion.
3. Now begin to use a toothbrush, either an ultra-soft model designed for people (baby tooth-brushes work well for cats) or a special pet tooth-brush or finger brush, which is a rubber finger covering with a small brush built in at its tip. These can be purchased in the practice.
4. Finally, once your pet is used to brushing, introduce the use of cat toothpaste in liquid or paste form. Our nurses will advise you on the best type of paste for your cat. Don't use human toothpaste, as it can upset your cat's stomach.
Book your cat a yearly dental check-up
Your vet will give your pet a thorough examination of the entire oral cavity to determine whether there are any underlying problems and, especially important, tartar buildup. Brushing removes plaque but not tartar, which is a hard mineralised material that can build up on your cats teeth and can only be removed with special dental equipment under anesthesia. After removing the tartar above and below the gum line, your veterinary surgeon will provide you with instructions for home care and follow-up.
Did you know?
- Kittens have their first 26 "milk" or deciduous teeth at 2 to 3 weeks of age. Their 30 permanent teeth begin erupting around 3 months.
- Cats have the fewest teeth of any common domestic mammal.