Stop and reflect for a moment, most people will brush their teeth before they go to bed. A roughness can be felt on our teeth at the end of the day, and this “roughness” that is felt is plaque build-up. What if us humans didn’t brush our teeth or have them professionally cleaned for three years? This is how it is for most of our pets. Plaque consists mostly of bacteria and if not removed from the tooth surface, will quickly mineralize into calculus, which are the hard tan deposits on a pet’s teeth. Over time the calculus will irritate the gums and cause gingivitis, which then in turn can cause an unhealthy and painful mouth resulting in periodontal disease. If periodontal disease is not treated, vital organs such as the heart and kidney can be negatively affected. Cats have 30 teeth; 12 less teeth than their canine counterparts. Although cats can do perfectly fine with missing teeth, they do not have that many to spare. When your cat is sitting in your lap or in a good mood, hold her in your arms and gently lift her lip to reveal her gums and teeth. What you will be looking for is a red gum line (gingivitis), tan or brown deposits on teeth (calculus), and broken teeth.
Clinical signs without looking at the teeth would be foul smelling breath, drooling, change in eating habits, pawing at the mouth, or shaking of the head. If you have noticed any of these signs, it is time for your cat to see the Veterinarian for a dental intervention.Other than periodontal disease, cats are susceptible to an extremely painful disease of the teeth called feline tooth resorption. This excruciating disease starts by destroying the enamel of the teeth and slowly deepens down to expose the sensitive areas of the teeth, such as the pulp and root. At first the resorption can look like a small hole or cavity in the tooth, and then eventually progresses into the gum tissue growing over or into the tooth. The true cause of tooth resorption is unknown, but research suggests that poor oral hygiene can be a contributing factor because of gingivitis bringing inflammatory mediators to the surrounding affected teeth. The treatment for a tooth affected by tooth resorption is extraction by a Veterinarian under general anesthesia. Since this condition affects approximately 30-40% of cats, it is another reason why you should check your cat’s mouth regularly.
Prevention is the key in the fight against dental disease. Introducing your cat to the toothbrush will take a lot of patience and time, but is vital to their oral health. Your veterinarian will have advice on how to start brushing and how to hold your cat safely for the procedure. Prescription dental food is another way to fight plaque and calculus on your pet’s teeth, as well as yearly dental cleaning to clean the teeth and gums of plaque and calculus, as well as examine and treat any pathology within the mouth and teeth. There is no substitution for brushing your pet’s teeth, but if no oral hygiene has been done on your cat before, it is best to check with your veterinarian first before starting an oral care regime in order to make sure your cat does not have an already painful mouth. You are your cat’s best advocate, and need to help them have a healthy and pain free mouth! There are many ways you can help your cat achieve good oral health, and the first step is to lift that lip and determine if your cat needs a dental intervention.