Vet Q&A: Am I doing enough for my cat's dental care?

by PDSA | 6 March #Lifestyle

Dental disease is common in cats – which is why it’s so important to look after their teeth and gums.

By checking your cat’s mouth regularly, you’ll be much more likely to spot problems early. Most cats don’t show symptoms of dental disease until it’s very severe and painful for them. Certain dental problems if left untreated can even cause other problems like kidney and heart disease.

Thankfully, our vets have some advice on what to look out for and how to take care of your cat’s teeth and gums. Keep reading to find out what they have to say.

How do I check my cat’s teeth?

Your cat should have their teeth checked by your vet every six to twelve months. In between these appointments, you should check your cat’s teeth every month. Ideally, you should have another person there so that they can gently hold your cat while you check. Try to make this a positive experience with praise and maybe some tasty treats too. Always stop if your cat seems stressed or uncomfortable.

Five tips to check your cat’s teeth

  1. Wait until your cat is relaxed and make sure that you have enough light.
  2. Then gently tip their head slightly back and to the side to gently pull back their lip.
  3. Their gums should be salmon pink in colour with no redness, ulcers, bleeding, lumps or visible tooth roots.
  4. Their teeth should be white and smooth with no cracks and no missing teeth.
  5. Finally, smell their breath and make sure that it’s not too stinky. 


If you are having problems checking your cat’s teeth, get in touch with your vet and ask them to check their teeth more regularly.

What can cause dental disease in cats?

Several things can cause dental problems in cats including:

  • Age – cats are more likely to develop dental disease as they get older due to the wear and tear throughout their life.
  • Illness – certain diseases, such as cat flu and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus (FIV), can cause gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) in cats and can increase the chances of developing other types of dental disease.
  • Misaligned teeth – cats with teeth that don’t align neatly in the mouth are more likely to build up plaque and tartar. This is common in pedigree cats with short noses, such as Persians, and with cats who have abnormally shaped jaws.

What are the symptoms of dental disease in cats?

There are quite a few symptoms in cats, so be sure to tell your vet if anything changes. The symptoms include:

The best way to care for your cat’s teeth and prevent any future issues is to brush their teeth regularly.

How do I brush my cat’s teeth?

Brushing your cat’s teeth is the best way to keep their mouth healthy as it removes plaque before it turns into tartar. We recommend getting your cats used to having their teeth brushed as a kitten – but older cats can also learn as well.

Follow these five easy steps:

  1. Buy some cat-safe toothpaste and a cat toothbrush.
  2. Get your cat used to the toothpaste by placing a little bit on your finger and letting them sniff and lick at it. This will get them used to the taste.
  3. Start by gently touching the side of their mouth and gradually build up lifting their lips. This will get them used to having their lips lifted. Be sure to give them treats afterwards so they will think of this as a positive experience.
  4. When they are comfortable to have their lips lifted, start gently touching their teeth and gums. Reward them afterwards.
  5. Next, use the toothbrush and make small motions on the outer surfaces of their teeth. Make sure that you brush gently and not on their gums.

If your cat starts showing any signs of pain or their gums start to bleed, stop immediately. Speak to your vet for further advice and they’ll guide you on what to do next.

Just like humans, cats can use special pet mouthwash which may help reduce the build-up of plaque. It can be added to your cat’s drinking water. There is also dental gel that can help to prevent the build-up of plaque as well. You can rub this directly into their mouth or encourage them to lick it off your finger. These options are unfortunately not as effective as brushing their teeth, but a great alternative if you cat won’t tolerate anything else.

What treatment options are available for dental disease?

The type of treatment depends entirely on the problem at hand but may involve some of the following:

  • Antibiotics – to fight infection.
  • Anti-inflammatory pain relief – to reduce pain and keep your cat comfortable.
  • Scale and polish – to prevent further plaque and tartar build-up. This needs to be done under general anaesthetic.
  • Tooth removal – to stop the pain, prevent the jaw bones becoming infected and to help stop other teeth from rotting.

Dental treatments can cost several hundreds of pounds – depending on the problem. Speak to your vet if you can’t afford the treatment to see what other options they have. We recommend getting your furry friend covered with cat insurance as soon as possible so you don’t have to worry about unexpected vet fees. Check your policy covers for dental treatments, as some may only offer it as an optional extra.

For more information on cat dental care, visit our Pet Health Hub.

Share this article on:  PDSA | 6 March


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