Dental disease can occur in cats of any age, and unless you take specific care of their oral health needs, it can begin to develop in adolescent and young adult cats. Dental disease in cats can be painful and dangerous, and pathogens from diseased teeth can get into the bloodstream and cause a variety of serious health problems.
Image of dental disease in cats
You will want to pay attention to kitty’s gums. Cats aren’t prone to cavities, but they are prone to developing plaque and gum disease—yes, just like us. And it’s not uncommon to see kittens develop gingivitis (red gums) when they’re anywhere from 6 to 9 months old.
Start gently checking your kitten’s teeth and gums regularly, so he’ll be used to it. Your veterinarian will check more thoroughly at each routine wellness visit. Start brushing your cat’s teeth when he’s young or new to the family, as well (if kitty is receptive at that time—start slowly!).
Your veterinarian can show you how to do this. If your veterinarian finds a buildup of plaque and tartar, it’s time for a professional cleaning. There are special veterinary dental diets that can really help control plaque and tartar buildup, and you should ask your vet about them. But you will still need to schedule professional cleanings for your cat.
Tooth extractions are not uncommon in cats. Veterinarians see a lot of periodontal disease (tooth root infections and loss of bone attachment to the tooth). Cats with tooth resorptive lesions (loss of the tooth structure), which are very painful to the cat, also require extraction of the affected tooth. At the earliest stages, these lesions will look like small pits in the surface of the teeth. If they’re not taken care of, over time they will allow bacteria into your cat’s bloodstream.
Check a picky eater for dental problems by holding a cotton-tipped applicator on the suspected problem area. If the cat moves away with his jaw quivering, take him to the veterinarian as soon as possible, because his teeth hurt.
Cats can also have broken teeth. More often than not it’s the tip of the tooth that is broken. Since both the pulp and the nerve inside the tooth extend to the tip, you can’t afford to wait around to see what will happen. Kitty should go to the veterinarian’s office as quickly as possible. Nearly all teeth in which the root is exposed will be extremely painful and susceptible to infection. Your cat needs either a root canal or a tooth removal as soon as possible.
Cleaning kitty’s teeth is your best bet for a healthy mouth. When brushing teeth, it’s important to brush at the gum line. And do ask your veterinarian about dental treats for kitty. They will help keep his teeth clean but are, of course, no replacement for dental care. They’re just a nice addition to your cleaning tools.