Pet Dental Health Month – Cats

With February being Pet Dental Health Month, dental and oral hygiene is a huge part of keeping your pet healthy, no matter what size or species.

What teeth should my cat have?

Cats have 4 different types of teeth which develop and may be lost over their lifetime. Have a look at the types of teeth and their purpose below;

  • Incisors – These are the small teeth at the front of your cat’s mouth and will be used for holding food or for prey in their mouth.
  • Canines – Your cat should have a set of 4 canine teeth. These are used for killing prey and shredding food.
  • Premolars – These are the teeth at the sides of your cat’s mouth and are used for chewing.
  • Molars – These are the larger teeth towards the back of your cat’s mouth and are used for chewing too

As a kitten your cat will normally have the following deciduous teeth (26 in total);

  • 12 incisors
  • 4 canines
  • 10 premolars

As your cat grows up they will lose their baby teeth and the following adult teeth will appear (30 in total);

  • 12 incisors
  • 4 canines
  • 10 premolars
  • 4 molars

Teeth are made up of many different layers starting from the inner pulp to the outer enamel. Problems normally arise when there has been damage to the enamel and other layers or when there has been detachment of the gum to the tooth.

Cats in particular are prone to gingivitis (inflammation of the gum around the tooth) and stomatitis (inflammation of the mouth). Inflammation in these areas can cause separation and lead to food, bacteria and plaque becoming trapped. In addition to this cats can also develop feline resorptive lesions (FRLs) which are a destruction of part of the tooth. These are commonly around the gum line around the neck of the tooth.

Masses or swellings within the mouth can be there for a number of reasons. It is always worth discussing removal or biopsy with your vet as it is impossible to diagnose just by looking at the abnormal area. It’s worth remembering that extra tartar and bacteria in the mouth, means more bacteria in the body generally which can lead to systemic infections and your pet becoming ill. All of these problems can be caused by diet, infectious disease, breeding, malalignment as well as oral dental care.

Signs of a problem with your cat’s teeth or mouth might include the following;

  • Smelly breath
  • Difficulty eating
  • A change in behaviour
  • Weight loss
  • Pain or rubbing at the mouth
  • Excess drooling or salivation
  • Redness or bleeding around the gums

If you notice a problem with your pet and suspect it may be their teeth, then a vet consultation is always a good idea and should be your first step. They may suggest a dental under a general anaesthetic which could range from a Scale and Polish (removal of tartar build up) to extractions of teeth or may suggest some preventative dental care treatment.

Preventative dental care top tips

  • Dental diets
    • These diets are usually formulated to have a kibble size and shape which should reduce the amount of tartar that can build up. Often the biscuit size is larger to ensure your pet has to chew through it and the rough centre should keep the teeth clean.
  • Dental gels and mouthwashes
    • Occasionally cats if very placid will allow tooth brushing. This is rare however, so gels and mouthwashes can be more useful. These are formulated products that contain enzymes to help breakdown tartar and avoid it affecting your cat’s teeth. Cat mouthwash can be added to your cat’s drinking water. Dental gels can be applied to your cat’s teeth or to your cat’s paw to be licked off.
  • Dental clinics with your veterinary nurse
    • Your practice may run dental clinics for your pet to attend and monitor their teeth. Problems can be picked up quickly and the veterinary nurse will help you to work with your cat to keep their teeth as healthy as possible. Your cat may not allow you to examine their mouth, but nurses are trained to know how to work with your cat and examine their mouth for a full dental assessment.

We hope you have learned more about your cat and their dental health.

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