Gum disease in cats

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This is an image of a vet examining a cat.

The stats

70% of cats aged over 3 years have some form of gum disease, yet less than 10% of pet parents realise their pet has a dental health issue.  

By establishing a good oral health routine from a young age, your cat can avoid becoming part of this statistic. 

Teething

Kittens start losing their temporary teeth (also known as milk teeth) between 3½ and 4 months of age.  These are replaced by a set of adult teeth. The milk teeth usually fall out easily, but during this time a kitten may have sore gums and eat a bit less than usual.  By the time your kitten is 6 to 7 months old, they should have all of their permanent teeth. 

Gum disease

Gum disease, also known as periodontal disease, is common in cats, so start dental care while your kitten is young.  

Plaque can form on the teeth which contains bacteria and leads to gingivitis (inflammation of the gums).  Plaque can then mineralise to form tartar which leads to bad breath and gum recession.  If left untreated, this painful condition can eventually lead to tooth loss and even systemic disease such as organ failure. 

Tooth brushing

Prevention is better than cure, and the most effective way to prevent tartar deposits is to brush your cat’s teeth daily.  

Step 1: Start with pet toothpaste

Sit your cat in your lap or a favourite resting place.  Using washed hands, apply a small strip of specially designed pet toothpaste to your finger and allow your cat to lick it off.  Repeat a few times.  Pet toothpaste comes in a variety of different pet enticing flavours.  Never use human toothpaste as it’s toxic to pets.

Step 2: Now get your cat accustomed to having their mouth and teeth touched

Apply pet toothpaste to your clean finger, lift your cat’s lip and smear the pet toothpaste on the teeth and gums.  Start slowly progressing only as far into the mouth as your cat is comfortable. Be gentle and patient and use lots of positive reinforcement (treats, verbal praise).  

Step 3: Progress to using a finger-brush and then a cat toothbrush

Prepare the brush with pet toothpaste and gently brush to clean the outside surfaces of the teeth and gums.  Many pets won’t allow you to brush the inside surfaces of the teeth.

Step 4: Toothbrush the back teeth

Be sure to brush the back teeth as they tend to quickly build up tartar.  Progress only at a pace your cat is comfortable, and keep up the positive reward based training.

Gradually increase the amount of time you spend brushing your cat’s teeth.  Ideally, toothbrushing should be done every day.

Additional help

Specially designed dental dry food such as ADVANCE™ Dental Cat can be offered when your cat becomes an adult.  Dental treats such as Feline GREENIES™ can be used daily, and fed from 1 year of age.  These products are designed to help reduce plaque and tartar accumulation.  They can be especially helpful for pets who won't allow their teeth to be brushed.  

Follow these tips, to keep your cat’s pearly whites in top shape!