Dental Care for Your Cat

You might not know it, but cats are prone to dental problems, too.

The good news about dental care for your cat is that you won’t be paying for braces. Though the dental diseases of cats are similar to humans, there are differences to be aware of—especially since our cats do even less than our kids when we tell them to brush.

Brush Their Teeth

Plaque forms daily on your cat’s teeth and can be brushed away with basic brushing. Plaque, left to its own will, forms tarter that can only be cleaned away by a professional cleaning. This is pretty much the same thing your own dentist has probably said to you. At least your veterinarian won’t recommend twice-daily brushing and a Waterpick for your cat.

You don’t want to use human toothpaste for your cat, as it has chemicals that can be harmful to him. Human toothpaste mostly comes with fluoride which can be toxic to cats. Pet stores carry toothpaste just for your cat, in yummy (to them) flavors like poultry and tuna.

No Tooth Fairy for Kitties

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, by the time cats are three years old, most have some form of dental disease. They suffer periodontal diseases, which is the destruction of bone, gum tissue, and structures that hold teeth in place; it is caused by bacterial infections beneath the gum line. This can cause loose or broken teeth, and can require extractions. My own kitty had to have two teeth removed recently, and another was so loose that it fell out on its own.

Time to Deep Clean

While a basic daily cleaning is suggested by many experts for your cats, it’s not always practical—and definitely not safe for your hands. At your cat’s general checkup, your vet can put your cat under anesthesia for a deep cleaning, examination of each tooth, as well as checking for signs of problems such as swelling, inflamed gums, and loose or broken teeth.

Signs of Trouble

Unfortunately, our cats can’t tell us when their teeth are bothering them, despite how vocal they are about other things. Though they can’t tell you, there are some signs to look for. One of the first signs of problems could be bad breath. While your cat might have unpleasant halitosis after gobbling down some tuna-flavored food, in general, she should not have bad breath. A cat suffering from dental problems may paw at their mouth more than usual, have a hard time holding onto their food, or seem sensitive to touching around their mouth. Discharges around the eyes or swelling of their face are big-time signs of trouble too.

Extra Help

Besides regular brushing and a yearly cleaning by the vet, there are other ways to care for your cat’s dental health. Feeding your cat healthy, natural, and additive free foods such as The Honest Kitchen is a good start. Treats can be used to also promote healthy oral care, in addition to the usual bribery. You can also ask your vet about other treats, water additives, and other products to help keep your cat’s mouth healthy.

Meet the Author: Michael Ryan

Michael Ryan is a full-time musician along with a humor, travel and outdoor recreation columnist. He's also an avid skier and golfer and has traveled extensively around the U.S, the Caribbean and Europe. His musical career takes him all over the U.S. and his wife drags him everywhere else. His weekly columns “The Life of Ryan” ran in the Transcript and Sentinel newspaper chain for several years and have been featured in the Denver Post, Rocky Mountain News and Mile High Magazine. He is the co-founder, editor and humor columnist for and currently resides in Morrison, Colorado.

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