Fact checked by a Hello Ralphie expert veterinarian
Dental disease is one of the most common health issues that veterinarians diagnose in cats. It can be present in every breed of cat and can be diagnosed at any age, although it becomes more prominent as cats get older. Read more about senior cat care from a Hello Ralphie vet.
Tarter and plaque naturally build on the outer surface of a cat’s teeth, which can result in malodorous breath (halitosis), tooth decay, and infections underneath the gums. These issues can cause your cat a significant amount of discomfort and pain and prevent them from eating their food.
When the teeth start to decay under the gums, they may need to be surgically removed by your veterinarian in order to keep your cat healthy and pain-free.
However, there are many things you can do to help slow down the progression of tarter and plaque, which can reduce and delay any dental diseases that could develop in your cat’s mouth.
How Can I Prevent Tarter Buildup on My Cat’s Teeth?
The most effective way to prevent tarter and plaque from building up is simply brushing your cat’s teeth.
This can seem a little daunting, and it’s not realistic for every cat, but you can train your cat to enjoy having their teeth brushed, especially if they’re young. This training will help improve your feline friend’s dental health and smile.
If you’ve just brought a young kitten home, get your kitten used to the feeling of your fingers in their mouth. However, there’s no need to brush with toothpaste if your cat has baby teeth. The feeling of your fingers over your cat’s teeth, or a toothbrush in their mouth, will help your cat get comfortable with future brushings.
Once your cat has their adult teeth, start applying a small amount of cat toothpaste to the outside surface of the teeth. This will introduce them to the taste and flavor of the cat toothpaste.
From there, gradually add more cat toothpaste to the toothbrush, or your finger, and gently brush the cat’s teeth. Just brush the outside surface of the teeth. No need to worry about brushing the inside surfaces!
What Should I Use to Brush the Teeth?
It’s important to use a pet-specific toothpaste. Human toothpastes have ingredients, like fluoride, that are potentially harmful to your pet. There are many different toothbrushes available on the market. The decision is one of personal preference.
A human toddler’s toothbrush will work well for most cats. However, you can find small toothbrushes specifically designed for animals at most pet stores.
A finger brush is a more dexterous option you can use. These brushes are typically made of softer materials, like rubber, and are designed to fit over the tip of a person’s finger. They have small rubber bristles that gently brush the tarter and plaque away.
How Often Should I Brush?
Typically, you’ll prevent plaque and tarter buildup the more you brush your cat’s teeth. Aim for daily brushings. It may help to try brushing your cat’s teeth after their final meal of the day, which will help establish a daily routine. However, even just a few brushes per week will help.
What Else Can I Do to Improve My Cat’s Dental Health?
Cat owners can also improve their pet’s dental health by switching them to a diet specifically formulated to help keep teeth clean.
A Hello Ralphie veterinarian can speak with you about some of these options and whether they’re suitable for your cat. These diets tend to consist of larger kibbles, which naturally encourage your cat to chew with their molars. Switching to a textured kibble that encourages the cat to use their molars to chew helps clean the surface of those teeth, which are known to be the worst for tartar buildup.
A Hello Ralphie veterinarian also advise you on additional dental products for your cat, such as water additives. These help to freshen their breath, and it can potentially limit the amount of dental disease in your cat.
My Cat Already Has Tarter, Now What?
In cases where the tarter buildup has already begun, it may be worth speaking with a Hello Ralphie veterinarian for a dental assessment and discuss next best steps for your cat.
It’s worth noting that a professional dental cleaning procedure almost always requires a full anesthesia. While some cats may need this, some might be able to avoid it with a good home dental care routine specific to their dental disease by a Hello Ralphie veterinarian.
In cases, where a dental cleaning may be necessary, a Hello Ralphie veterinarian can also chat with you about what the procedure might entail such as removal of any rotten or diseased teeth, a professional cleaning, or dental x-rays.
How Often Will My Cat Need Dental Procedures?
The number of dental procedures that your cat will need depends on a variety of factors, including their age, genetics, lifestyle, and the preventative measures taken throughout their life.
The more dedicated you are to preventing tarter and plaque, the less often your cat will need to visit a veterinarian for a dental cleaning, and the less likely it is your cat will develop advanced dental diseases that require teeth removal.
If you’re unsure about the state of your cat’s teeth, or if your cat needs a dental procedure, arrange a telemedicine appointment with a Hello Ralphie vet. Our veterinarians will help you and your cat through a virtual consultation.
There are many products available to help prevent feline dental disease. Speak with a veterinarian about which products will work best for you and your cat. Also be sure to ask about more tips and strategies for effective brushing. Read more on pet dental care from a Hello Ralphie vet.