Hours:
Mon - Fri: 7:30AM - 5:00PM
Sat: CLOSED
Sun: CLOSED
24-Hour Emergency Hospital:
Emergency Information
XAlert:COVID19 Doing our part to keep pets and people healthy COVID19 (coronavirus) Update. Read more

Cat Dental Disease


Cat Dental Services

Diseases of the teeth and gums are, unfortunately, common in cats. Studies show that up to 90% of cats four years of age and over suffer from dental disease. The top three dental diseases in cats include gingivitis, periodontitis, and tooth resorption. All can cause discomfort and pain for our feline friends. Cats typically learn to live with this pain, thus typically do not stop eating, making it difficult for owners to be alerted of a concern. This is why it’s so important for you veterinarian to check your cat’s mouth for signs of disease at least annually, and sooner should an owner notice changes such as bad breath.


 

Featured Quote:

If you think there's something wrong in your cat's mouth, a vet absolutely needs to take a look.

Video Transcript:

Hi, I'm Dr. Moore, and we've put together a list of questions that are commonly asked of us about cat dental disease. I've got somebody who's going to throw these questions at me right now and we'll see if we can get some of these answered for you. What's our first question?

What's important about cat dental health when it comes to overall health?

Cat dental health is very important when you consider whether cats can eat without having pain. Do they have an overload of bacteria in their mouth? Do they have abscesses hiding under their gum line that we don't know about? Certainly, that affects the immune system, how they behave, and, really, if they're comfortable or not. There is a lot that factors into oral health in their everyday life.

What are some signs and symptoms of dental issues in cats?

Sometimes, they don't stop eating to let us know so we have to look at them, lift their gum lines, lift their lips, look at their gum lines, and look for gingivitis - that bright pink line that you can see sometimes at the margin of the tooth and the gingiva. We're going to look for gingival recession or deep pockets. You can't see abscess to the roots without an X-ray but sometimes there will be swelling either above where that root's sitting or sometimes even without it being in the mouth ...like right under the eye if a fourth premolar is abscessed, you can appreciate a swelling.

We're looking for periodontal disease or disease under the gum line. To some extent, the amount of tartar and plaque that you can see on the crown of the tooth can be indicative of what's happening underneath the gum line but sometimes we don't actually know what's happening under the gum line until we get in there with a probe during a dental or, really, more specifically, with our dental x-rays. That's really where we find true dental disease, periodontal disease.

What are some dental treatments that you would offer for cats if you're finding issues?

Let's say we have the cat that's getting a dental exam and we've found a tooth with a deep pocket or an abscessed root tip. Really, that tooth is best served to not be present anymore. Certainly in certain cases, a root canal is maybe a possibility and something to discuss with your vet. Most of the time, though, not so much ... we oftentimes will extract a tooth that is not able to be saved.

If you just do antibiotics, you are just putting a band-aid on the problem for a very short period of time and then you've still got a problem that is causing that cat discomfort, pain, and infection; and so, oftentimes we're talking about extractions, and they feel so much better with these problem teeth gone.

Are there things that we should be doing at home to take care of our cats' teeth?

Yes, absolutely. We love to get owners involved with their cat's oral hygiene. If an owner can brush teeth daily, that is ideal. Really, if it just becomes part of your normal routine it's not such a big task or a big ask to do that. It can be a quick 20 to 30 seconds of just brushing the outside portion of the crowns of the teeth and then they get some positive reinforcement and move on.

Plaque will turn to tartar in 24 to 36 hours so it really does need to be a daily event. Even if someone were able to do it 2 or 3 times a week, that's absolutely beneficial. It's a little bit harder to remember to do on that schedule so daily is more ideal. Yes, if an owner can brush teeth that is the best thing that they can do.

Where do we draw the line between what we can diagnose at home in terms of the cat's dental health and what we really need to rely on a veterinarian to diagnose?

If you think there's something wrong in your cat's mouth, a vet absolutely needs to take a look. You may notice bad breath, and that's quite common and that can mean something more serious is happening in the mouth. If you see that bright pink line that I described as gingivitis, that's the first stage of periodontal disease. I absolutely need to be getting in that mouth, addressing the periodontal disease, halting it, and hopefully preventing bone loss under the gum line from happening.

That's what's going to really drive our recommendation to end up extracting a tooth. We really like to catch these teeth before we get to that stage so if you suspect something's going on, it's time to have a vet take a look.

Could dental disease make my cat sick? What do plaque and tartar have to do with illnesses?

It can be ... Plaque and tartar, to some extent, might be cosmetic but, absolutely, there is bacteria that is harbored underneath all of that. If it's there, it's under the gum line as well and so the immune system is dealing with that.

Is there even more that's happening well under the gum line, like at the root tips that we can't see?

It's definitely a possibility. Really, what we're after when we're addressing dental disease for cats is pain and infection. Yes, I think plaque and tartar to some extent is cosmetic but there can be infection associated with it.

Any questions, please feel free to give us or your vet a call. We're happy to talk you through what we can. Really, it's very helpful if we can really see what's happening so we can be much more specific about it, so call and make an appointment.

What's important about cat dental health for their overall health?

Cat dental health of course is very important for, can they eat without having pain, do they have an overload of bacteria in their mouth, do they have abscesses hiding under their gumline that we don't know about? Certainly, that affects the immune system, how they behave and, really, if they're comfortable or not. There's really a lot that factors into oral health in their everyday life.

What are some signs and symptoms of dental issues in cats?

Sometimes, they don't stop eating but when we look at them we're going to lift their gumline, lift their lip, look at their gumline, look for gingivitis, that bright pink line that you can see sometimes at the margin of the tooth and the gingiva. We're going to look for gingival recession, deep pockets. You can't see abscess to the roots without an X-ray but sometimes there'll be a swelling either above where that root's sitting or sometimes even without it being the mouth, like right under the eye if a fourth premolar is abscessed, you can appreciate a swelling.

We're looking for periodontal disease, disease under the gum line. To some extent, the amount of tartar and plaque that you can see on the crown of the tooth can be indicative of what's happening underneath the gum line but sometimes we don't actually know what's happening under the gumline until we get in there with a probe during a dental or really, more specifically, with our dental x-rays. That's really where we find true dental disease, periodontal disease.

What are some dental treatments that you would offer for cats, if you're finding issues?

Let's say we have the cat that's getting a dental and we've found a tooth with a deep pocket or an abscessed root tip. Really, that tooth is best served to not be present anymore. Certainly in certain cases, a root canal is maybe a possibility and something to discuss with your vet. Most of the time not so much, but we oftentimes will extract a tooth that is not able to be saved.

If you just do antibiotics, you are just band-aiding the problem for a very short period of time and then you've still got a problem too that is causing that cat discomfort, pain, and infection; and so, oftentimes we're talking about extractions and they feel so much better with these problem teeth gone.

Are there things that we should be doing at home to take care of our cat's teeth?

Yes, absolutely. We love to get owners involved with their cat's oral hygiene. If an owner can brush teeth daily, that is ideal. Really, if it just becomes part of your normal routine it's not such a big task, a big ask to do that. It can be a quick 20 to 30 second just brushing the outside portion of the crowns of the teeth and then they get some positive reinforcement and move on. Plaque will turn to tartar in 24 to 36 hours so it really does need to be a daily event. Even if someone were able to do it two or three times a week, that's absolutely beneficial. A little bit harder to remember to do on that schedule so daily is more ideal. Yes, if an owner can brush teeth that is the best thing that they can do.

Where do we draw the line between what we can diagnose at home in terms of the cat's dental health and what we really need to rely on a veterinarian to diagnose?

If you think there's something wrong in your cat's mouth, absolutely a vet needs to take a look. You may notice bad breath, and that's quite common and that absolutely can be something more serious happening in the mouth. If you see that bright pink line that I described that is gingivitis, that's the first stage of periodontal disease and absolutely need to be getting in that mouth, addressing the periodontal disease, and hopefully preventing bone loss under the gum line from happening. That's what's going to really drive our recommendation to end up extracting a tooth. We really like to catch these teeth before we get to that stage so if you suspect something's going on, absolutely, it's time to have a vet take a look.

Could dental disease make my cat sick? What do plaque and tartar have to do with illnesses?

Plaque and tartar, to some extent, might be cosmetic but, absolutely, there is bacteria that is harbored underneath all of that. If it's there, it's under the gum line as well and so the immune system is dealing with that. Is there even more that's happening well under the gum line, like at the root tips that we can't see? Absolutely, it's a possibility. Really, what we're after when we're addressing dental disease for cats, pain and infection. Yes, I think plaque and tartar to some extent is cosmetic but there's absolutely infection associated with it.

Common Feline Dental Diseases

Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease, and left unchecked, will progress to periodontal disease. Gingivitis (redness, swelling, or bleeding where the tooth meets the gums) is largely reversible with a deep cleaning, though if allowed to progress to periodontal disease (destruction of the tissues that attach the tooth to the soft and bony structures), is not reversible and extractions of affected teeth may be recommended at this stage.

Tooth Resorption is a process by which the tooth structure breaks down, starting from the inside of the tooth, often spreading to other parts of the tooth. This can be a painful tooth for a cat, and extraction of affected teeth may be recommended by your veterinarian. Up to 70% of cats are affected at some point in their lives by this process, yet the cause of this destructive process is unknown.

Our goal is to catch cats in the early stages of periodontal disease, so that we save teeth whenever possible. At Lone Star Animal Hospital, a dental cleaning for a cat is done under general anesthesia, to allow for full-mouth scaling of the crown of the tooth as well at at the gingival margin, polishing, dental x-rays to evaluate the tooth roots and bone, and probing for periodontal pockets, resorptive lesions, or chipped or fractured teeth. There is actually quite a lot of work done during these procedures, please feel free to ask about specific questions you may have at your appointment.

Schedule a dental exam for your cat

There are several factors that affect when your veterinarian may recommend a dental cleaning for your cat, including genetics, age, home dental care, and any underlying health conditions. We want to see your cat at least annually to ensure they have healthy, pain-free mouths! Click here to schedule an appointment.

Share this Content