Making sure your cat’s teeth are looked after is an important part of maintaining their health and happiness. Keeping an eye on their teeth and getting into a routine when it comes to dental care can help them avoid dental diseases, pain and bad breath.
Cats’ teeth tend to get coated in bacteria, plaque and debris from the food they eat. This can result in gum irritation, pain, inflammation and tooth loss if left untreated, as well as affecting their ability to eat or drink.
A large proportion of cats over the age of three develop teeth or gum problems, which is why it’s important to take steps to prevent dental problems.
What are the warning signs to look for?
When plaque builds up on your cat’s teeth and isn’t removed, it hardens to form tartar. This results in gum irritation and dental diseases, including gingivitis. Knowing what to look out for when it comes to dental disease in cats can ensure you’re able to get them treatment quickly to avoid further pain and discomfort.
The first sign is very hard to miss – bad breath. If your cat has bad breath, it could be a sign of dental disease. Other symptoms include red gums, yellow-brown tartar on their teeth and drooling. They may also drop their food, only chew on one side of their mouth or put off eating altogether. But these more severe symptoms are rare, our cats are very tolerant of teeth pain and often show no signs at all.
If they are displaying any of these symptoms or are losing weight, which can be due to not being able to eat as a result of dental pain, you should take them to the vet to get them checked out.
In some cases, your cat may not display symptoms as cats are notorious for not making a fuss when they don’t feel well. This is why you should get into the habit of checking their teeth regularly.
How do I check my cat’s teeth?
Your cat may not be a fan of having their teeth checked, but if you get into the habit of doing it regularly, they may get used to it. If you struggle to get a clear view of their whole mouth – not just their front teeth – you should get them checked at the vet.
To check their teeth, make sure they are happy and comfortable before gently lift the flaps off their gums and check the teeth that you can easily see. Do one side and then the other to make sure the gums and teeth look ok. You should also check their back teeth and the back of their mouth, which you can do by gently using your thumb and index finger to spread the side of their mouth open.
Make sure you give them lots of praise and offer them a reward when you’ve checked all their teeth, their guns and their throat.
What should you look for when checking your cat’s teeth?
There are a few things you need to look for when checking your cat’s teeth and mouth for signs of infection or dental disease.
To start with, their teeth should be clean and white and not have signs of chips or cracks. Your cat’s gums should also be pink and healthy without any signs of sores, swelling, redness, lesions or bleeding. Finally, the back of their mouth should also be pink and healthy without any foreign bumps, swelling, ulcers or lesions.
If you notice anything unusual that you are concerned about or see any broken teeth or tartar, you should take your cat to the vet for a checkup. Similarly, if you notice that their breath has gotten worse, you should also get them to the vet.
How do you clean a cat’s teeth?
The best way to keep your cat’s teeth clean is to regularly brush them. Ideally, this should be done daily but twice a week can help to maintain dental health too.
Getting your cat used to having their teeth brushed may not be the easiest thing, especially if they are older, but a bit of patience and sticking to a routine will help.
Here’s how to get started with brushing your cat’s teeth:
- If you’re not sure about the best way to brush your cat’s teeth, ask your vet to show you the best way to do it.
- Make sure you use toothpaste that is formulated for cats and not human toothpaste. Flavoured cat toothpaste tastes nicer- so it should be easier to get them used to it – and is meant for cat teeth.
- Get your cat used to the toothpaste by putting it on your finger and letting them kick it off. Do this for a few days before starting to try and brush their teeth.
- Use a toothbrush designed for cats (make sure you have one brush per cat) and avoid finger brushes.
- Stick to a routine, so make sure you brush their teeth at the same time each day so it becomes normal for them.
- Position your cat with their back to you to brush their teeth, making sure they are calm and comfortable. Stroke their face, mouth and head to get them used to you touching them there while also soothingly talking to them.
- Start by slowly pushing back their lips and just touching their teeth with the toothbrush before rewarding them. Do this for a few days to help build trust and keep them calm.
- When they are comfortable with this, start gently brushing their teeth. Do this at a 45-degree angle, making sure you are brushing the surface of their teeth but not brushing their gums directly. Do this for 10 seconds at a time before rewarding them to get them used to the process.
What else is good for your cat’s teeth?
As well as brushing, there are other ways to look at your cat’s teeth and mouth.
Certain treats and foods are designed to help remove plaque, reduce tartar build-up and keep your cat’s breath fresh while also looking after their overall health. You can also get oral gels and sprays that help to reduce plaque and slow the formation of tartar.
It’s important to remember that what works for one cat may not work for another as they each have their own personalities and dislikes. Let us help you find the best option for your cat, we are always happy to chat!