Healthy teeth and gums makes for a healthy cat. Your vet will check your cat’s teeth during their annual checkup, but you can help prevent gum disease by brushing your cat’s teeth regularly.
Looking after your cat’s teeth
Tooth and gum problems occur in eight out of ten cats over the age of three. Establish a routine of brushing your cat's teeth as early as possible to keep your cat smiling.
Cats tend to accumulate plaque, food debris and bacteria, on the outside of their teeth, but not on the inside. This hardens to form tartar, irritating the gums and causing gingivitis and loss of teeth. The bacteria can even enter the bloodstream and damage the kidneys and other organs.
Signs of advanced gum disease include:
- bad breath
- reddened gums
- yellowish-brown tartar on teeth
When gingivitis is severe, cats may even drop food from their mouths and lose weight because they are unable to eat. If this happens, your vet may recommend specialist dental care to remove any loose teeth and de-scale using ultra-sonic vibration. This gently removes plaque and tartar without damaging the surface of the teeth.
Teach your cat to accept a daily brushing or wiping of its teeth.
First, wash your hands and pull back your cat’s lips. Use a soft brush or a rubber fingertip applicator, plus special pet toothpaste in flavours that your cat will find tasty, like malt or chicken. Never use toothpaste made for humans!
Apply the bristles to the teeth at a 45 degree angle, reaching both the tooth surface and just beneath the gum margin. Use small circular motions on the outside surfaces.
Start slowly and end on a positive note - be persistent but gentle.
If your cat is still very young, do not attempt to brush her teeth. You can still get her used to having her teeth touched from a very early age.
Dental care products
If your cat resists you handling their mouth, oral hygiene gels are available. These contain enzymes that inhibit the bacteria responsible for plaque formation. You can give them to your cat directly or mix them with food.
Dental chews are also available, as well as special dry food diets that contain fibre and exert a brushing action as your cat chews.
Maintaining good dental care is a crucial part of keeping your cat in optimum health. For more information on cat health take a look at our Healthy Cat Checklist.
About the Purina PetCare Advice Centre
The Purina PetCare Advice Centre brings together a team with in-depth knowledge, experience and special interests with the skills to advise about health and nutrition, behaviour, training, socialisation, as well as basic first aid for your cat or dog. Our team of dedicated pet lovers can also provide information about Purina products and services to help you give your pet the best possible care. If you've got a question about any aspect of pet care, then ask the Purina PetCare Advice team.