Cat Dental Disease

Dental disease (including periodontal disease) in cats can be avoided with simple daily brushing. Tuft's University School of Veterinary Medicine in North Grafton, MA, USA says, "Daily cleaning can reduce tartar formation by 95 percent and weekly cleanings by 76 percent."

Periodontal disease is the most common oral condition suffered by cats. Some statistics suggest that the majority of cats two years old or older suffer from some type of it.

What is It?

Cat dental disease means a disease of the tissues around the teeth. The hardest material in a cat's body is the tooth enamel, the outer surface of the tooth. In a young cat the enamel is smooth and undamaged. As the cat gets older, more bacteria cover the teeth and this bacteria eats through the enamel if not constantly removed.

The bacteria irritate the gum edges, which makes them red and inflamed. Just as in humans, this condition in cats is called gingivitis. Gingivitis can progress to the more serious periodontal disease as the bacteria causes more damage to the inflamed gums causing them to recede around a tooth. The bacteria keeps damaging the tissue to the point where the tissue holding the tooth is so damaged, it can no longer hold the tooth in place. This stage of dental disease is called advanced periodontal disease. It's possible for the bacteria in the infected tooth to get into the cats bloodstream causing heart problems, liver problems, kidney problems and infections in the lungs.

Symptoms of Dental Disease

It's important to get your cat checked regularly by a vet since symptoms of cat dental disease can be subtle. As a cat owner, you may not notice the problem until the condition is so advanced that your cat can no longer chew. The dental disease will be extremely advanced if your cat can't open his mouth or chew his food. Most cats with dental disease are still able to eat.

Early signs of dental disease include bad breath, reddened gum edges, exposed tooth roots due to receding gums, lack of appetite, yellow or brown deposits on the teeth, and excessive drooling that could possibly be tinged with blood.

In advanced periodontal disease, your cat may have pus around his tooth, have stomach or intestinal upsets and be irritable and depressed. Your cat may be in a lot of pain and may paw his mouth.

Avoiding Dental Disease

Brushing is the best way to avoid any type of cat dental disease. If your cat's teeth are encrusted with calculus (tartar), the only way to get the teeth clean is through descaling. This is done by a vet while the cat is under general anesthetic and involves using vibrating instruments to remove the deposits. When the calculus is removed, the tooth enamel is polished.

Periodontal disease in cats is irreversible.