How common is dental disease in cats?

Dental disease is one of the most frequent ailments seen by veterinary surgeons, and can be found to some degree in the majority of cats over three years of age.


What can I do to help prevent dental disease in my cat?

In order to help prevent dental disease the prime aim is to keep the mouth as hygienic as possible and to reduce the rate at which tartar builds up on the teeth. Why not book your cat in for a dental health check up with a nurse.

The diet should contain foodstuffs, which encourage chewing, such as tough pieces of meat or specially designed biscuits such as Hill’s Feline t/d. The act of chewing stimulates the production of saliva, which contains natural antibacterial substances; and the mechanical action helps to scrape plaque and tartar off from the teeth. We can supply you with these diets and give you the best advice on how much to feed.

The most effective way of reducing plaque and tartar is to brush the teeth. A number of products including toothpastes, brushes and water additives are available so book in to see the nurse who can provide you with best product for your situation.


Never use human toothpaste on cats, as these are not designed to be regularly swallowed and could cause illness.


What signs am I likely to see?

There are a number of signs, which should alert you to the possibility of dental disease or other mouth problems being present.

  • Your cat may show no interest in food, or approach the food bowl then be reluctant to eat, or back away.
  • It may chew with obvious caution and discomfort, drop food from the mouth, or may swallow with difficulty.
  • Dribbling may be seen, possibly with blood, and there may be a marked unpleasant odour to the breath.
  • In some cases the cat may be seen pawing at their mouth or head shaking.

If you notice any of these signs you should make an appointment for the vet to examine your cat.


What usually causes dental disease?

The most common cause of dental disease in cats is due to tartar accumulation.

As in humans, cats accumulate bacterial plaque on the surface of their teeth, which if not removed quickly becomes mineralised to form tartar. The bacterial products and decaying food stuck to tartar are one potential cause of bad breath.

The accumulation of tartar and bacteria on the teeth surfaces will, sooner or later, lead to infection and gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).


Is gingivitis always associated with dental disease?

A slight degree of redness seen as a thin line just below the edge of the gum may be considered normal in some kittens and adult cats with no evidence of dental disease. If in doubt then please ask your vet to check your cat’s mouth.

Some cats develop severe gingivitis with minimal signs of accompanying dental disease. The affected areas may extend beyond the gums to other areas of the mouth, such as the throat or tongue. The cause of this disease is not yet known, but it is likely to be multi-factorial which may differ between individual cases. This condition is often very difficult to control and may require repeated or constant treatment, and its accurate diagnosis can involve extensive investigative procedures.

What are tooth neck lesions?

Neck lesions result from a progressive destruction of the tooth substance effectively resulting in slowly deepening “holes” in the teeth concerned. Once the sensitive parts of the tooth is exposed these lesions are intensely painful, and usually the only available treatment is to extract the tooth. The cause of this disease is unknown, however poor oral hygiene is suspected to play a role in the disease-process.


What should I do if my cat has signs of dental problems?

If you can see that your cat has evidence of tartar accumulation, gingivitis or is exhibiting any signs of mouth pain or discomfort then you should take it to your vet for a check-up. You will be advised of the most appropriate course of treatment, which may involve having the cat’s teeth examined and cleaned under general anaesthesia.

Contact your nearest Mercer and Hughes Veterinary Surgery or book your vet appointment online.

Dental Care for Cats
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