Similar to people, cats can suffer from tooth and mouth pain. It can even get bad enough to prevent your cat from eating. In this post, our Los Angeles vets share some tips on cat dental health and care, including how to keep your kitty's mouth clean. 

Why Cat Dental Care is Important

Cats are able to hide pain exceptionally well. They may suffer from painful oral health issues without ever letting you know that they feel uncomfortable. This is why owners need to be extra conscious of their companion's oral health and well-being and be diligent about keeping their cat's teeth clean. 

How to Spot Dental Health Issues in Cats

While specific symptoms will vary depending on which dental health condition your cat is experiencing, there is a good chance your cat is suffering from dental disease if you notice any of the following symptoms or behaviors:

  • Difficulty with or slow eating
  • Loose or missing teeth 
  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Visible tartar 
  • Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums 
  • Pawing at the teeth or mouth 
  • Weight loss 
  • Excessive drooling

By keeping an eye on your cat's teeth and oral health, you might be able to detect health issues early and get your cat treated before developing problems progress to more serious (and expensive) concerns. 

If you notice any common signs of dental disease in your cat, book a dental examination and cleaning with your vet as soon as possible. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated, the better outcomes for your cat's long-term health.

Yearly Dental Checkups for Your Feline Family Member

To help ensure your four-legged friend's mouth stays as healthy and pain-free as possible, our veterinarians at Washington Dog and Cat Hospital recommend that you schedule annual dental cleanings as part of your pet's routine veterinary care. Your veterinarian can assess your pet's oral health along with their general physical health and will be able to let you know if any professional cleanings are required to restore your cat's good health. 

How to Clean Your Cat's Teeth 

Implementing a daily at-home oral hygiene routine is the best way to make sure that your cat's teeth and gums stay as healthy as possible for as long as possible. To make the teeth-cleaning process as easy as possible, get your feline companion into the habit of having their mouth touched and teeth brushed while they are still quite young. This way, your cat will be used to the sensation and more tolerant of brushing as they grow older. 

Your priority should be to make the process of brushing your cat's teeth as smooth as possible by incorporating it into your cat's daily routine. Begin by waiting until your cat is feeling calm and relaxed, then take these steps:

  1. Gently lift your cat's lips and use your finger to massage their teeth and gums for a few seconds. 
  2. Don't expect very much from your cat at first. You may only be able to reach a couple of teeth the first few times you attempt this process - that's okay. Your goal is to build trust in your cat to help prevent them from becoming agitated. 
  3. Stay calm and give your kitty lots of praise and a yummy treat after your teeth-and-gum massage. This will help build your cat's tolerance to the experience, gradually increasing the length of time you spend on this task each day.
  4. Once your cat has become used to you massaging their gums on a daily basis, you'll be able to gradually introduce a soft-bristled toothbrush and some special toothpaste designed for cats. These are available at pet stores or potentially your vet's office. Toothpaste can come in a variety of tasty flavors for cats, including chicken or beef. 
  5. Start by using the toothbrush as gradually as you did the teeth-and-gum massage; your cat may even become curious and lick a small dab of toothpaste from your finger.

The length of time and thoroughness of your cat's brushing will depend on their temperament for the most part. Make sure you remain flexible and adapt your approach to accommodate your cat's tolerance. Some cat owners have a very easy time cleaning their feline friend's teeth with gauze, while others find that a finger brush works well. Others may even apply a dental gel with their fingers that can do some of the work for them.

When you finally begin brushing your cat's teeth successfully, move along the gum line, working quickly but stopping before your cat becomes irritated. It could be weeks before your kitty tolerates having all of its teeth cleaned during a single session.

If your cat is alarmed or stressed out by the process of having their teeth cleaned, it may react by scratching or biting. So, if brushing your cat's teeth becomes too difficult for you and your feline companion, consider adding plaque remover to their drinking water, getting them specially designed chew toys, or providing them with dental treats. 

As well as your efforts to keep your kitty's teeth clean and healthy, they’ll also need a regular professional dental cleaning performed by a qualified vet to keep their teeth in optimal condition.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Do you have concerns about your cat's dental health? Contact our Los Angeles vets to book a dental examination and cleaning. We can also offer treatment options for any oral health conditions.