Dental disease is extremely common in cats, with some experts estimating that eighty five percent of cats over the age of three have some form of dental disease. The problem tends to get worse with age, as plaque turns to tartar, tartar causes gum recession, teeth become loose, and some are damaged or fall out. Thus, the treatment of dental disease varies depending on the seriousness of the problem and the cooperativeness of the patient.
Treating Dental Disease
1. Remove plaque. This is the earliest stage of dental disease and is removed by daily brushing. In addition, you can feed your cat a special dental care diet to help remove plaque.
2. Clean off tartar. Once the hard deposit that is tartar has formed, it can only be removed by mechanical cleaning. This involves descaling with an ultrasonic dental descaling machine.
3. Treat gingivitis. Inflammation of the gums, also known as gingivitis, is treated by a combination of cleaning the mouth and antibiotics. Cleaning the mouth by ultrasonic descaling removes the bacteria-rich tartar that is pressing on the gum. If infection is present, the vet may also prescribe antibiotics in order to kill the bacteria causing the infection.
4. Fix loose or damaged teeth. Wobbly teeth need to be extracted under anesthetic. While veterinary dental specialists do exist, it is rare to attempt to repair a damaged tooth. This means that extraction is the most practical solution.
5. Treat tooth root infections with antibiotics and extraction. These infections may be initially brought under control with a course of antibiotics. However, unless the tartar or inciting cause of the infection is removed the problem is likely to recur and so antibiotics alone are a temporary solution and extraction of the tooth with the infected root is required.
Preventing Dental Disease
1. Take your cat in for a yearly checkup. In order to keep your cat's teeth healthy, it's important to take it in for an annual exam. Your veterinarian will inspect your cat's teeth and let you know about any problems it is experiencing.
2. Look for the signs of dental disease. Inspect your cat's teeth for tartar. Over time, calcium is deposited in the plaque which hardens into tartar or calculus. This is visible as a hard cream or yellow colored deposit on the tooth enamel, typically found alongside the gumline.
3. Focus on home care. In an ideal world, prevention is better than a cure. In order to prevent dental disease, your cat's teeth need to be brushed and cleaned regularly.
4. Start tooth care early. Ideally, young kittens would be taught from a young age to tolerate having their teeth brushed. This is done by gradually acclimating them to having their mouth handled and lips raised. Then a pet toothbrush is introduced and touched briefly to the teeth. The kitten is then praised. Dampen the toothbrush with water and then brush briefly, praising the cat for cooperative behavior. Over time, you can build up to brushing the entire mouth.
5. Feed your cat dry food. Diet also plays a part in preventing dental disease. Wet or canned food tends to stick to the teeth and promote plaque formation, so dental disease occurs more quickly. Dry kibble is slightly better in that it has an abrasive action and it takes longer for tartar to develop.
6. Learn about dental disease. This will help you identify if your cat has a problem developing. Dental disease has a variety of causes, but in general, it is a progressive condition that starts with plaque. Plaque is the sticky residue that coats teeth, which is made up of food debris, saliva, bacteria, and products secreted by bacteria. Over time, the plaque turns into tartar.