Protect Your Cat's Teeth

How to Protect Your Cat’s Teeth

Your cat’s teeth are essential for their health and well-being. They help them eat, groom, play, and communicate. However, many cats suffer from dental problems, such as gum disease, tooth decay, stomatitis, and broken teeth. These problems can cause pain, infection, bad breath, and even affect other organs in the body. Therefore, it is important to protect your cat’s teeth and prevent these issues from happening. In this blog post, we will explain why and how to protect your cat’s teeth, and what to do if your cat has dental problems.

Why Protect Your Cat’s Teeth?

Protecting your cat’s teeth is important for several reasons:

  • To prevent plaque and tartar buildup: Plaque is a sticky film of bacteria and food particles that forms on the surface of the teeth. If not removed, plaque can harden into tartar, a yellow-brown substance that sticks to the teeth and causes inflammation and infection of the gums (gingivitis). Tartar can also damage the enamel of the teeth and expose the sensitive dentin and pulp, leading to tooth decay and pain.
  • To prevent gum disease: Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is a common condition that affects 80% of cats by the age of three. It is caused by plaque and tartar buildup that irritates and infects the gums and the structures that support the teeth, such as the ligaments and the bone. Gum disease can cause redness, swelling, bleeding, and recession of the gums, as well as loose, broken, or missing teeth. Gum disease can also affect other parts of the body, such as the heart, kidneys, and liver, by spreading bacteria and toxins through the bloodstream.
  • To prevent stomatitis: Stomatitis is a severe inflammation of the mouth that affects some cats, especially those with certain viral infections or immune system disorders. It is characterized by ulcers, sores, and lesions on the gums, tongue, palate, and cheeks. Stomatitis can cause extreme pain, drooling, bad breath, difficulty eating, weight loss, and reduced quality of life. The exact cause of stomatitis is unknown, but it may be related to an overreaction of the immune system to plaque and tartar. The treatment of stomatitis may involve antibiotics, steroids, immunosuppressants, and tooth extraction.
  • To prevent broken teeth: Broken teeth can occur in cats of any age, due to trauma, chewing on hard objects, or dental disease. Broken teeth can expose the nerve and blood vessels inside the tooth, causing pain, infection, and abscess. Broken teeth can also affect the alignment and function of the bite, and interfere with eating and grooming. Depending on the type and severity of the fracture, the treatment may involve filling, capping, or extracting the tooth.

How to Protect Your Cat’s Teeth?

The best way to protect your cat’s teeth is to provide them with regular and proper dental care, both at home and at the vet. Here are some tips on how to do that:

At Home

  • Brush your cat’s teeth daily: Brushing your cat’s teeth is the most effective way to remove plaque and prevent tartar buildup. You will need a soft-bristled toothbrush and toothpaste designed for cats, which are safe to swallow and come in different flavors. You can also use a finger brush, a gauze pad, or a cotton swab to apply the toothpaste. You should start brushing your cat’s teeth when they are young, so they can get used to it. You should also make it a positive and rewarding experience, by using praise, treats, and toys. You should brush your cat’s teeth gently and carefully, focusing on the outer surfaces of the teeth, especially the back molars. You should avoid brushing the inner surfaces of the teeth, as they are usually self-cleaning. You should also avoid brushing the gums, as they may bleed or become irritated. You should brush your cat’s teeth for about one or two minutes, once or twice a day, or as recommended by your vet.
  • Give your cat dental treats and chews: Dental treats and chews are products that are designed to help clean your cat’s teeth and freshen their breath. They can be given as a supplement to brushing, or as an alternative for cats that do not tolerate brushing. Dental treats and chews come in different shapes, sizes, textures, and flavors, and some of them contain ingredients that can reduce plaque and tartar, such as enzymes, chlorhexidine, or abrasive agents. You should choose dental treats and chews that are appropriate for your cat’s size, age, and dietary needs, and that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) which certifies products that meet certain standards of effectiveness. You should also follow the instructions on the package, and limit the amount and frequency of dental treats and chews, as they may contain calories and additives that can affect your cat’s health and weight.
  • Feed your cat a dental diet: A dental diet is a type of food that is specially formulated to promote your cat’s dental health. Dental diets usually have larger and harder kibbles, which can scrape off plaque and tartar from the teeth as the cat chews. Dental diets may also contain ingredients that can prevent plaque and tartar formation, such as sodium hexametaphosphate, zinc, or vitamin C. Dental diets can be used as a complete and balanced diet, or as a supplement to your cat’s regular diet. You should consult your vet before switching your cat to a dental diet, as they may have specific nutritional requirements or preferences. You should also choose a dental diet that is approved by the VOHC and follow the feeding guidelines on the label.
  • Change your cat’s diet: Another way to protect your cat’s teeth is to change their diet from dry to wet, or vice versa, or to include some raw or fresh food. Dry food can help clean your cat’s teeth by providing some mechanical abrasion, but it can also stick to the teeth and cause plaque and tartar buildup. Wet food can help hydrate your cat and prevent dry mouth, which can increase the risk of dental problems, but it can also leave residues on the teeth and cause bad breath. Raw or fresh food can provide your cat with natural enzymes and nutrients that can support their dental health, but it can also carry bacteria and parasites that can cause infections. Therefore, you should balance the pros and cons of each type of food, and choose the one that suits your cat’s needs and preferences. You should also consult your vet before changing your cat’s diet, and introduce any new food gradually and carefully.

At the Vet

  • Take your cat for regular dental check-ups: You should take your cat to the vet for regular dental check-ups, at least once a year, or more often if your cat has dental problems or risk factors. Your vet will examine your cat’s mouth and teeth, and look for any signs of plaque, tartar, gingivitis, periodontitis, stomatitis, broken teeth, or other issues. Your vet will also ask you about your cat’s dental care routine, diet, behavior, and health history, and advise you on how to improve your cat’s dental health. Your vet may also perform some tests, such as blood work, x-rays, or cultures, to diagnose any underlying conditions or infections that may affect your cat’s dental health.
  • Take your cat for professional dental cleanings: You should also take your cat to the vet for professional dental cleanings, as recommended by your vet, usually once or twice a year, or more often if your cat has dental problems or risk factors. Professional dental cleanings are performed under general anesthesia and involve scaling, polishing, and flushing the teeth and gums, to remove plaque and tartar, and prevent or treat gingivitis and periodontitis. Professional dental cleanings may also involve extracting, filling, or capping any damaged or diseased teeth, to prevent further complications. Professional dental cleanings are the only way to remove tartar from the teeth and to access and treat the areas below the gum line, where most of the damage occurs. Professional dental cleanings are essential for your cat’s dental health and can prevent or delay the need for more invasive and costly procedures in the future.

How to Tell If Your Cat Has Dental Problems?

Your cat may not show any obvious signs of dental problems, as they tend to hide their pain and discomfort. However, there are some clues that you can look for, such as:

  • Bad breath: Bad breath, also known as halitosis, is one of the most common signs of dental problems in cats. It is caused by the accumulation of bacteria and food particles in the mouth, which produce foul-smelling gases and toxins. Bad breath can also indicate other conditions, such as diabetes, kidney disease, or oral cancer, so you should take your cat to the vet if you notice any changes in its breath.
  • Red, swollen, or bleeding gums: Red, swollen, or bleeding gums are signs of inflammation and infection of the gums, also known as gingivitis. Gingivitis can cause pain, irritation, and sensitivity in the mouth, and can lead to periodontitis, which can damage the structures that support the teeth. You should check your cat’s gums regularly, and look for any changes in color, shape, or texture. Healthy gums should be pale to bright pink, and fit snugly around the teeth. You should also look for any signs of pus, ulcers, or lesions on the gums, which can indicate stomatitis or other serious conditions.
  • Yellow or brown stains on the teeth: Yellow or brown stains on the teeth are signs of plaque and tartar buildup, which can cause gum disease and tooth decay. Plaque and tartar can also make the teeth look dull and discolored, and affect the appearance and function of the bite. You should check your cat’s teeth regularly, and look for any changes in color, shape, or texture. Healthy teeth should be white and shiny, and fit well together. You should also look for any signs of cracks, chips, or holes in the teeth, which can indicate tooth fracture or decay.
  • Difficulty eating or chewing: Difficulty eating or chewing can be a sign of dental pain, infection, or injury, which can affect your cat’s appetite, nutrition, and weight. Your cat may show signs of difficulty eating or chewing, such as dropping food, eating on one side, swallowing food whole, avoiding hard or crunchy food, or refusing to eat at all. Your cat may also show signs of discomfort or distress, such as pawing at the mouth, rubbing the face, shaking the head, or vocalizing. You should monitor your cat’s eating and chewing habits, and look for any changes or abnormalities. You should also check your cat’s mouth and teeth for any signs of inflammation, infection, or injury, such as redness, swelling, bleeding, pus, or foreign objects.
  • Changes in behavior or mood: Changes in behavior or mood can be a sign of dental problems, as they can affect your cat’s physical and mental health. Your cat may show changes in behavior or mood, such as being more irritable, aggressive, withdrawn, or depressed. Your cat may also show changes in activity level, sleep pattern, grooming, or social interaction. You should observe your cat’s behavior and mood, and look for any changes or deviations from their normal personality and routine. You should also try to identify any possible triggers or causes of the changes, such as stress, illness, or environmental factors.

Your cat’s teeth are important for their health and well-being, and you should take good care of them. You should provide your cat with regular and proper dental care, both at home and at the vet, to prevent and treat any dental problems. You should also watch out for any signs of dental problems, such as bad breath, red or swollen gums, yellow or brown stains on the teeth, difficulty eating or chewing, or changes in behavior or mood. If you notice any of these signs, you should take your cat to the vet as soon as possible, and follow their advice and treatment. By protecting your cat’s teeth, you can help your cat live a longer, happier, and healthier life.

FAQs

How often should I brush my cat’s teeth and what kind of toothbrush and toothpaste should I use?

You should brush your cat’s teeth at least once a week, preferably more often if possible. You should use a soft-bristled toothbrush that is specially designed for cats or a finger brush that fits over your finger. You should also use toothpaste that is specially formulated for cats, as human toothpaste can be harmful to them. You should gently brush your cat’s teeth in a circular motion, focusing on the outer surfaces of the teeth and the gum line. You should reward your cat with treats, praise, or affection after each brushing session.

What are the signs and symptoms of dental disease in cats and how can I check my cat’s teeth at home?

Some of the signs and symptoms of dental disease in cats are:
Bad breath
1. Drooling or difficulty swallowing
2. Red, swollen, or bleeding gums
3. Loose, broken, or missing teeth
4. Yellow or brown tartar buildup on the teeth
5. Loss of appetite or weight
6. Pawing at the mouth or face
7. Changes in behavior, such as irritability, aggression, or depression

What are the benefits and risks of professional dental cleaning for cats and how can I prepare my cat for the procedure?

Professional dental cleaning for cats is a procedure that involves removing plaque and tartar from the teeth and gums and treating any dental problems, such as cavities, infections, or abscesses. Some of the benefits of professional dental cleaning for cats are:
1. It can prevent or treat dental disease and its complications, such as pain, infection, tooth loss, or organ damage.
2. It can improve your cat’s oral hygiene and overall health and well-being.
3. It can eliminate bad breath and improve your cat’s appearance and comfort.
Some of the risks of professional dental cleaning for cats are:
1. It requires general anesthesia, which can pose some risks, such as allergic reactions, breathing difficulties, or cardiac arrest.
2. It can cause some side effects, such as bleeding, swelling, or infection of the mouth, or nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea after the procedure.
3. It can be expensive and time-consuming, depending on the extent and severity of the dental problems.

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