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Dental Disease

Dental disease involves a range of oral problems from mild plaque (mild bacterial byproducts build up) to tartar and calculus (mineralized bacterial products that form a thick hard layer, allowing the proliferation of bacteria) to gingivitis (reversible inflammation of the gums) to severe periodontal disease (irreversible, extremely painful damage to the ligaments and bone that hold teeth in place).

We commonly see resorptive lesions (holes in the enamel of the tooth) in cats. This is exceptionally painful and often requires the removal of the tooth. Early intervention to prevent the progression of dental disease can reduce the need for teeth extraction later in life and significantly reduce pain. More than 60% of cats over 3 years of age have some level of dental disease.

What to look for at home?

Common signs of dental disease can include:

  •  Foul smelling breath
  •  Obvious discomfort when chewing,
  •  Dropping food out of their mouth
  •  Reduced food intake or enthusiastically approaching food bowl, but then not actually willing to eat much.
  •  Dribbling excessively, occasionally with blood present
  •  Preference for wet food or reluctance to eat dry. Can occasionally appear as a “picky’ eater.
  •  Shaking head or pawing at mouth
  •  Reduced grooming

If you are concerned about any of these changes please contact the clinic and organize a health check.

What can your vet do to diagnose dental disease?

Regular oral exams to monitor dental disease progression are important. Many cats require a regular (annual) dental scale and polish under anaesthetic to remove tartar/calculus and keep their gums healthy. Some cats will require multiple tooth extractions, and once periodontal disease is present they are likely to have ongoing issues if the teeth are not removed.

What can you do at home?

  1.  Check your cat’s mouth regularly for any signs of tartar build up or foul smelling breath. Ask your vet to show you how. If you notice any signs of dental disease, prompt action can prevent progression to periodontal disease.
  2.  Dental diets, such as Royal Canin dental or Hill’s t/d, can help clean away tartar and reduce future build ups of plaque. Other options include feeding a chicken wing or a thick (ideally 2cm x 2cm x 10cm) strip of raw meat such as chicken, beef or kangaroo, once daily to promote chewing and prevent plaque build up. 
  3. A water additive such as Aquadent can significantly reduce plaque build up. In summary regular dental check, dental care and dental maintenance can prevent further progression of this painful disease.