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Dental Care in Cats - signs of dental disease, management and home care

Dental Care in Cats

70% of cats over 3 years of age already have gum disease.

Cats have 30 permanent teeth and they need to be well looked after

Maintaining your cat's oral health from the start can help prevent dental disease, it is a lifelong commitment.

Healthy teeth and gums lead to a happier and healthier life.

Dental disease is one of the most common diseases diagnosed in companion animals. 70% of cats over the age of 3 years already show signs of gum disease. 

The build up of plaque and calculus leads to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums), which then progresses to more serious problems if left untreated.

Untreated dental disease results in infection and discomfort in the mouth and may lead to serious health problems.

Common senior health issues can relate to an unhealthy mouth.

Common dental problems seen in cats:

  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums from build up of plaque and calculus)
  • Periodontal disease ( advanced disease affecting teeth and the supportivre structures around the teeth)
  • Bacterial infections and tooth root abscess
  • Oral resorptive lesions (holes in the surface of the tooth)
  • Stomatitis (inflammation inside the mouth)
  • Broken teeth
  • Oral cancer

Signs of Dental Disease

Common signs of a dental problem :

  • Decreased appetite
  • Unwillingness to eat hard food
  • Drooling
  • Bad breath
  • Plaque or tartar build up on teeth
  • Swollen, red or bleeding gums
  • Missing or broken teeth
  • Weight loss
  • Pawing at mouth


To maintain your cat's dental health, you need to keep its teeth clean.

Your cat requires regular dental checks (every 6-12 months) just like we do, as early signs of dental disease may not be detected by you.

Home care management plans can help maintain healthy teeth and gums.

Veterinary dental procedures may be required to treat dental disease, the treatment required depends on the grade of dental disease.

What may happen during a veterinary dental procedure:

  • General anaesthesia
  • Oral examination
  • Dental Radiographs (depending on outcome of assessment)
  • Teeth scaling to remove tartar and plaque
  • Teeth polish
  • Gum irrigation to remove debris
  • Teeth extractions may be required
  • Assessment of abnormal gum pockets
  • Tooth and gum procedures depending on findings
  • Administration of pain relief and antibiotics where required

Home Care

Taking care of your cat's teeth at home is extremely important in reducing plaque formation and the development of dental disease.

Plaque control can be achieved through mechanical removal such as brushing teeth and feeding prescription dental food and chews or by chemical means with veterinary dental products.

Tooth brushing

Tooth brushing is considered the "gold standard" when performed at least once daily. It is the most effective and cheapest form of plaque prevention.

Get your kitten used to mouth handling and tooth brushing as soon as you bring it home, it will then become part of a daily accepted routine throughout your cat's life.

Toothbrushes come in varying sizes and designs: a very soft head on a standard straight brush is ideal. Animal toothbrushes and finger brushes are readily available.

When using toothpaste, it is important to use a specific cat toothpaste as it is flavoured for pets, does not need to be rinsed, has low levels of fluoride and does not foam. Note: human toothpaste can cause stomach irritation if ingested.

Always use a circular sweeping motion, pushing the brush away from the gumline.

Dental Chews

The natural chewing motion can help reduce plaque. Some dental treats and commercial dry foods also contain chemical plaque control agents. 

Prescription dry food diets

There  are a range of these diets available at our clinic and our team can advise you on which diet  specifically will best suit your cats dental needs.

They are a complete and balanced diet, and are a very good way to help maintain your pet's dental health.

Depending on the diet, some have a specific kibble design that helps mechanically remove plaque and some include a chemical compound to help prevent tartar.


Tips that may help prevent dental disease:

  • Daily brushing of teeth
  • Veterinary prescription dental diets
  • Dental chews
  • 6-12 monthly veterinary dental checks to pick up early disease
  • Veterinary dental cleaning as required
  • Control of diseases such as diabetes, thyroid disease, feline leukaemia (FeLV), and feline immunodeficiency disease (FIV)
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