Cat showing their teeth

Key takeaway

Cat dental care is an important part of being a cat owner. While brushing your cat’s teeth is the most effective way to prevent dental disease, you can supplement their oral health routine with dental diets, water additives, dental treats, and dental toys.

Cat dental care is just as necessary for your feline friend as it is for you since they can also develop gum diseases, tartar, and plaque buildup. Healthy cat teeth can keep your cat pain-free, while cat dental care is essential for your cat's overall health and wellness. Not taking care of your cat's teeth can lead to health problems, including periodontal diseases, which can be fatal.  

Luckily, there are many ways to take care of your cat's teeth. In this article, we'll discuss the importance of dental care for cats and how you can take better care of your cat's mouth to prevent dental disease. 

5 Ways to Take Care of Your Cat's Teeth

Taking care of your cat's teeth is easy, especially when you have the proper tools at your disposal. Here's how you can easily take care of your cat's teeth at home to prevent dental disease and other illnesses caused by plaque, tartar, and bacteria. 

Ways to take care of your cat’s teeth

Brush your cat's teeth regularly

Brushing your cat's teeth regularly is the best, most effective way to keep their teeth healthy. In the wild, cats chew on grass and bones to keep their teeth clean. However, domesticated cats don't have a replacement for this natural teeth-cleaning method. That said, try brushing your cat's teeth at least once a day. 

Keep in mind that your ability to brush your cat's teeth will depend on their personality. Some cats are okay with whatever their owners want to do to them, while others will try to fight when you stick a toothbrush in their mouths. Most adult cats will resist having their teeth brushed, especially if this is a new habit you're trying to form. This is where training your cat with treats can come in handy.

First, get your cat used to having your fingers in their mouth. Once your cat accepts it, you can give them a treat. You may not be successful at first, so it's important to be patient with your cat. Brushing their teeth is something you'll have to do regularly, so there's no reason to force it and make the experience negative. Instead, work on teaching them that brushing their teeth results in treats, which can make the experience positive. 

Once your cat is ready to have their teeth brushed, begin by gathering the right tools. While a toothbrush is the best cat dental care tool, you should also have toothpaste, which can loosen stubborn plaque. When brushing your cat's teeth, always use toothpaste formulated for cats because human toothpaste can be toxic.1 Moreover, there are many different types of toothbrushes on the market, so you may have to experiment and see which one works best for your cat. For example, your cat may prefer something that slips over your finger rather than a regular pet toothbrush. 

Once you're able to brush your cat's teeth, give them a treat afterward to reward them for their good behavior. If you notice your cat shrieking or trying to get away from you while brushing their teeth, this can be a sign of pain caused by gingivitis or an issue with their teeth or gums.1 However, it can also be because your cat is not used to having their teeth brushed. 

You know your pet better than anyone; if they are acting like they're in pain, it can indicate something is wrong. Try to look in their mouth for signs of tooth decay or inflammation that can contribute to pain. If you notice anything or your pet continues to be in pain, speak to a vet as soon as possible to identify the issue and stop it from getting worse. 

Feed dental treats 

While brushing is the most effective way to prevent gum disease and keep your pet's mouth healthy, some cats won't be happy to have their teeth brushed, making this activity challenging to complete. While you shouldn't give up on brushing your cat’s teeth, you can supplement a cat's dental care routine with alternative dental products, such as dental treats. Dental treats are designed to improve oral health in cats by removing plaque when chewed. Always choose dental treats that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) to ensure you're buying a product that's effective and safe. You'll know when a dental product is VOHC approved because it will have the official VOHC seal on the packaging. 

Provide a dental diet 

Dental diets can help cats suffering from dental disease by reducing plaque and bacteria in the mouth. These diets are often prescribed by vets to help cats manage gum disease and prevent dental issues. Dental diet kibble pieces are larger to encourage cats to chew their food instead of swallowing it whole. As a result, the kibble can rub against their teeth and remove plaque. 

On the other hand, there are some foods that can actually increase your cat's risk of dental disease.2 If you're not sure what to feed your pet to protect their teeth and help remove plaque in between professional cleanings, talk to your vet. A veterinary professional can provide you with a few recommendations. 

Cat drinking water

Use water additives

Water additives can be added to your cat's water bowl to promote better dental health. Dental water additives are not nutritional supplements; instead, they're similar to human mouthwash. Depending on the additives you choose, they can be antiseptic and antibacterial to keep your pet's mouth healthy and prevent bad breath. 

Unfortunately, even water additives are not a substitute for daily brushing because they can't scrub off plaque buildup. However, they can get rid of bacteria. 

Give your cat dental toys

Dental toys are another great option for keeping your cat's breath fresh and improving their oral hygiene. These types of toys are excellent for dental care for cats because they give your pet something to do while scraping and brushing away plaque and tartar. 

Still, dental toys are not a substitute for daily brushing or routine cleanings. This is because they're not as effective as manual brushing. Typically, cats chew on the same side of their mouth, so your cat may be scraping off plaque in only one area. Additionally, cat toys can't reach every tooth in your cat's mouth, so brushing is the only way to ensure each one is being cared for properly. 

Now, you may be wondering, “How many teeth do cats have?” Adult cats have 30 teeth, which means you need to brush every single one to prevent tooth decay. 

Why Is Cat Dental Care Important?

If you’re asking yourself, “how to care for my cat’s teeth?”, you may also be wondering why taking care of your cat’s teeth is so important. Cat dental care is essential for the same reasons human dental care is. Not maintaining your cat's oral health can lead to periodontal diseases, gingivitis, and even fractured teeth.3

Periodontal disease is quite common in cats.3 This can be due to several reasons, including not brushing your cat’s teeth regularly. Some owners may also believe they don't have to maintain their pet's oral health because their pets are animals that once survived in the wild without a toothbrush. However, domesticated cats require routine oral care. Gum disease affects up to 85% of cats over the age of six and is caused by inflammation due to bacteria and when layers of plaque harden.3 If gingivitis isn't treated, it can lead to several dental issues, some of which require teeth extractions. 

Gum disease is painful and can cause your cat to stop eating or drinking water. Periodontal disease can also become fatal when the bacteria from plaque enters the bloodstream, thus leading to potentially fatal medical issues that affect the heart, liver, or kidneys.4

Periodontal diseases can affect your cat's kidneys, liver, and heart

Periodontal diseases are completely preventable through proper cat dental care, which includes regular brushing and routine vet exams to determine the health of your pet's teeth and gums. 

Signs of Dental Diseases in Cats

Dental disease in cats may not be noticeable, especially if plaque is barely starting to form. However, the following symptoms can be an indication of dental problems.5

Signs of dental diseases in cats

  • Bad breath
  • Irritated or bleeding gums 
  • Oral pain 
  • Reduced appetite 
  • Inability to eat 
  • Loose teeth 

Tooth resorption in cats can also be a symptom of dental disease, but this is sometimes caused by genetics. If your cat's teeth have a significant amount of buildup or your cat is in pain, take them to the vet as soon as possible. Your vet can examine their teeth and gums, clean them, and provide instructions on caring for your cat's teeth.

When to Have Your Cat's Teeth Professionally Cleaned

Having your pet's teeth professionally cleaned depends on several factors, including:

  • Age
  • Genetics
  • Diet
  • Lifestyle
  • Health

Your vet will determine the best schedule for teeth cleanings. Some cats require more frequent teeth cleanings, while others won’t have their teeth cleaned as often.

At your cat’s dental appointment, a vet will remove built-up plaque and tartar and polish their teeth.They'll also be able to tell you which teeth need to be pulled. If your cat has a dental issue, they'll need a thorough cleaning and x-rays to determine the severity. Once your vet has more information, they'll make recommendations based on your pet's age and health to provide the right treatment. 

Dental Care for Cats: Frequently Asked Questions

Is cat dental care really necessary? 

Not taking proper care of your cat's oral health can lead to dental disease, pain, and discomfort. Not only are treatments for dental disease expensive, but left untreated, they can lead to more severe health complications. So, it's best to prevent dental diseases with proper at-home care for cats and routine exams. 

What dental care essentials do I need for my cat?

Since toothbrushing is the most effective way to remove plaque, you'll need a cat toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste for daily brushing. You can also purchase dental chews, dental food, water additives, and dental toys to supplement their oral health routine. 

How do I take care of my cat's teeth?

Regularly brushing your cat's teeth is the most effective way to care for your cat's oral health. You should also take them to the vet for their annual exam so that your vet can look in their mouths to determine if there are any problems. If you notice any symptoms of dental diseases, such as cat drooling, pain, or discomfort when eating, talk to your vet as soon as possible. 

Final Notes

Taking care of your cat's dental health can help them live longer, healthier lives. Avoiding brushing your cat's teeth because it's difficult means increasing your cat's risk of dental diseases. While there are other options, such as additives, dental chews, dental food, and toys, brushing is the most effective way to keep your cat's teeth and gums healthy. If you notice any signs of gingivitis or other oral issues, contact your vet immediately since gum disease can lead to more complex health problems. 

Dutch offers telemedicine for pets so you can have all of your concerns addressed without leaving the comfort of your own home. With Dutch, you'll have access to a licensed veterinarian who can teach you how to care for your cat's oral health at home.

References

  1. “Feline Dental Disease.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 3 May 2019, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/feline-dental-disease.

  2. “Pet Dental Health.” SF SPCA, 29 Dec. 2021, https://www.sfspca.org/blog/pet-dental-health/

  3. “When Kitty Needs a Dentist.” Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine, 5 July 2019, https://www.vet.cornell.edu/departments-centers-and-institutes/cornell-feline-health-center/health-information/feline-health-topics/when-kitty-needs-dentist.  

  4. “Pet Dental Care.” American Veterinary Medical Association, https://www.avma.org/resources-tools/pet-owners/petcare/pet-dental-care.  

  5. “Consequences of Periodontal Disease.” Veterinary Periodontal Disease Consequences, http://www.vohc.org/periodontal_disease_effects.html.