In honor of National Pet Dental Health Month:
Tooth or False?
Bad breath is normal for cats. They’re animals…we just need to deal with it.
False! Bad breath = bacteria and bacteria = disease. This bacteria builds up on teeth over time and causes inflammation, which in turn causes bleeding of the gums. This is the perfect opportunity for bacteria to get in your innocent kitty’s bloodstream and go to their heart, kidneys, liver, and more. Over time, this causes serious disease which is much more harmful than bad breath alone.
My cat is only one year old, I don’t need to worry about her dental disease yet.
False! Dental care and disease prevention should begin as soon as you adopt a cat, at a few months old. Although most cats have their full set of adult teeth by around 6 months, there are things one can do, like getting them used to having their teeth looked at and touched. Dental diets and treats can be introduced at approximately 6 months as well. We discuss all options thoroughly during those important first visits to the clinic.
My cat is eating fine, so her teeth must not be bothering her.
Sad but false: The majority of cats we see with the WORST dental disease are still eating. Cats are masters at hiding their pain and weaknesses. During a thorough physical exam, we often note pain when we are looking in your cat’s mouth. It is often not until after a dental procedure when owners notice how much their dental problems were affecting their cat. Better grooming, affection, and personality improvements are common.
His teeth look OK, so they must be fine and healthy.
False again… the most common type of “decay” or “cavity” in cats is called a resorptive lesion. These are areas of decay that begin in the center of the tooth, and work outwards. They are one of the many reasons why dental x-rays are so important to identify disease. We get many hints of disease or decay on simple exam with things like pain reactions and gingivitis, but x-rays are mandatory to accurately diagnose the state of a cat’s dental health.
It’s just too hard to take care of my cat’s teeth at home.
False! Yes, it can be hard to keep up on brushing your cat’s teeth. We all can relate. It does make a huge difference in those cats who do get their teeth brushed, but if you can’t do that, these are easy alternatives:
1. Choose only dental treats and diet that are approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). This organization is similar to the American Dental Association (ADA) for human products. The VOHC seal only is allowed on products that have proven effectiveness toward reducing severity of periodontal disease. This includes diets like Royal Canin Dental Diet, Hill’s t/d, and Purina DH. Treats include Greenies and CET chews, just to name a few. A full list of products can be found on the VOHC website.
2. Water additives and gels: These must be slowly introduced to a cat’s home, but water they (also only those approved by VOHC) can make a big difference in a cat’s health. We encourage the use of one called HealthyMouth.
3. Regular professional dental cleanings and exams. Imagine, even with us brushing 2-3 times per day and flossing, we still routinely go to our dentist for cleaning and care every six months. Even if our cats are getting dental kibbles, treats, and other prevention, they still need dental cleaning and attention every 12 months (some even more frequently).
My cat needs to be anesthetized just to get his teeth cleaned? That’s crazy.
FALSE, not crazy at all: During an anesthetized dental procedure, we do so much more than clean teeth. Our certified veterinary technicians scale tarter that accumulates under the gum line and causes gingivitis. Each tooth is graded based on the health of the tooth and the gum tissue around it. X-rays are taken to identify lesions below the gum line or not seen with the naked eye.
The doctor then does a full exam of the oral cavity including gums, cheeks, tongue, rear of the mouth, and palate. It is not uncommon to find abnormalities such a oral tumors. If these are caught early, they can be removed and cured. If they are not detected until they cause pain or are so big that they can be seen in an “awake” cat, it is often much more difficult to cure.
My cat is too old for a dental procedure.
False, as you know if you’ve read our prior blog about good ‘ol Salamann. Age is not a disease. Many of the procedures we do are on older kitties. If there is no other contraindication to a dental procedure (we fully assess all aspects of health prior to anesthetizing a cat for a procedure), then dental disease should be taken care of at any age.
Often cat parents are amazed at the difference in their cat after dental disease is taken care of. Play, socializing, grooming, and other behaviors often improve once that “hidden” disease and pain is treated.
Routine professional dental treatments and home prevention starting early in life will save your cat (and you) from extensive procedures and oral surgery when they are older….not to mention the other secondary diseases that may result from years of neglect of oral health.
Call or email us, or stop by and read our book, “Rosie’s Day at the Dentist”, to learn more about what is involved in a thorough, professional dental procedure at Cat Care Clinic.