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Cat getting its teeth brushed with a toothbrush

Cat Dental Care

We take the oral health of our patients very seriously. Dental problems left untreated can be very painful for your cat. Problems in the mouth can also affect other organs such as kidneys and the heart.

What is involved in a dental cleaning procedure?

Dental cleanings or COHAT (complete oral health assessment and treatments) are done under general anesthesia, using a combination of analgesics (pain killers) and sedatives, along with an inhalant gas to maintain anesthesia. This is the only way to perform a thorough oral examination, which always includes full mouth dental radiographs. Akin to the iceberg analogy, the crown or visible portion of the tooth is just a small part of the overall tooth anatomy, with over 50% residing underneath the gum line (the tooth roots). Once every tooth has been examined radiographically to determine whether any hidden disease is present, each tooth is thoroughly cleaned around its entire circumference, both above (subgingival) and below (supragingival) the gum line. While cleaning off visible tartar gives the impression of a clean mouth, it is the buildup of plaque and tartar underneath the gum line that contributes significantly to dental disease. Therefore, thorough subgingival cleaning is arguably the most important part of the COHAT procedure for teeth that do not require extraction.

What are the signs of dental problems in cats?

Cats are notorious for not displaying outward signs of oral disease and pain; a survival mechanism developed over thousands of years of evolution. Frequent oral examinations can be prudent in the early detection of dental disease, including tartar build-up, bleeding, and/or redness of the gums (gingivitis). In some cases, though, cats will display subtle outward signs of oral disease, including pawing at their face, shifting food to one side of their mouth for chewing, drooling, halitosis (bad breath), or ceasing chewing altogether and swallowing food whole.

Are some feline breeds more susceptible than others?

For the most part, all breeds of cats are equally susceptible to periodontal (dental) disease. However, brachycephalic breeds (think breeds with a “smushy” face like the Persian, Himalayan, etc.) may be more predisposed due to the crowding of teeth in their shorter muzzles (jaws). Some studies suggest that certain Asian breeds, namely the Siamese, are more predisposed to feline tooth resorptive lesions, but the data on this is not conclusive and definitive.

What is feline tooth resorption?

Feline tooth resorption is a disease process that occurs commonly in cats, with up to 70% of cats having at least one tooth affected throughout their lifetime. It is a condition where for reasons still currently unknown, a tooth in the cat’s mouth spontaneously erodes and is destroyed beyond the point of repair. It can affect any tooth within the cat’s mouth, and the speed at which the tooth will be resorbed is unpredictable. It is not known whether this condition is painful to cats when it occurs completely underneath the gum line, though when the lesions become exposed to the outside environment (e.g. above the gum line), these lesions are incredibly painful and cause a high degree of uncomfortable sensitivity.


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