Did you know that up to 85% percent of cats over the age of three have dental disease. Some cats can develop severe dental disease at a very young age. Cats will often suffer in silence and will commonly continue to eat despite having sore gums. Often people think it is due to a lack of a good diet, or from feeding soft food but we now know that there are several risk factors for dental disease that include;
- Tooth alignment (short nosed breeds like Persians, British or Exotic shorthairs)
- Infectious diseases
- Oral dental care – lack of any home dental care
- Chemistry in the mouth – the bacteria and other local changes in the mouth will have an important effect
- Genetics – some cats are probably genetically more predisposed to developing dental disease than others.
Dental disease often develops as tartar builds up on the surfaces of the teeth. This carries a lot of bacteria and makes the gums and cheeks red and sore, which is called gingivitis. If left for some time the gums will recede, weakening the attachment between the gum and the tooth, leading to loose and painful teeth. Diseased teeth can also get infected which is again very painful, although animals often don’t show signs of mouth pain until it is very severe. Unlike people, cats don’t often get cavities but they can develop other problems like tooth root infections from broken teeth or cats can get resorptive lesions that are very painful.
Prevention of dental disease
Teeth brushing, as strange as it may sound, is the best way of preventing dental disease. Obviously it might not be suitable for every cat but if brushing is introduced gently, cats can accept dental brushing. Few pets really enjoy it so as long as the animal is not getting distressed (or trying to bite) then it is worthwhile persevering with teeth brushing to prevent tartar buildup. Cat toothpaste is used on the finger or on a fingerbrush to gently rub the outside surfaces of the teeth. A toothbrush can also be used but pets are often more accepting of a thimble-type fingerbrush.
Cats should have their teeth examined by a vet every 12 months, which we will routinely do at their yearly booster. Cats that have dental problems should ideally have them examined every 3-6 months depending on the condition. Cats will often not show any signs of having a problem, meaning issues are often not spotted until they are quite advanced, meaning that several teeth may need to be removed to solve the problem.
Special food for your cat’s dental care?
If your cat does not tolerate brushing the next best thing is a food that is specifically designed to help prevent tartar. Hill’s VetEssentials is an excellent quality food that we stock in all out clinics. The kibble is specially designed to have a brushing action when the tooth goes into the kibble.
Treatment of dental disease
When your pet is examined by a vet, they will check their teeth. If we find a problem we may recommend a ‘Dental‘. What we mean by that is a dental procedure, done under a general anaesthetic, to fully examine, descale and polish your pet’s teeth. If the dental disease is more advanced we may find teeth that are diseased. It may be necessary to extract teeth if they are very diseased and therefore likely to be causing pain.
Why is a General Anaesthetic necessary?
Dental procedures are safest for both the pet and the vet done under a general anaesthetic. If an animal is not asleep enough it is often unsafe to look in their mouth properly and problems may be missed. When under an anaesthetic a tube is placed in the windpipe to allow the animal to breathe and prevent any water entering the lungs. A nurse monitors the anaesthetic throughout and if any problems arise will alert the vet.
Of course, it might be worrying to think about your pet going under anaesthetic, as with all anaesthetics they do carry a small risk, but there are things that can be done to reduce anaesthetic risk, such as blood tests or IV fluids throughout the procedure.
A vet will examine the pets mouth and note any problems. If any extractions are necessary, the vet will do this. We use local anaesthetic just like human dentists to help control pain during and after the procedure. Sometimes a ‘surgical extraction’ may be necessary where the gums are stitched after the tooth is taken out. The vet or a Registered Veterinary Nurse will descale and polish the teeth.
If you are concerned that your pet might have a problem with their teeth you can book them in for a check with our vets.