Cat Dental Care

Maintaining oral health is equally important for your pet as it is for humans.

Dental care is a vital part of any animal’s overall health. It should be implemented with daily oral care at home and regular professional dental care by your veterinarian. Cats should have all of their permanent (adult) teeth erupted by 6 months of age. The goal of effective dental care is to maintain your cat’s teeth throughout their lifetime, rather than them losing teeth to chronic infection, inflammatory disease, or fractures. It is ideal to treat dental disease before any severe or widespread pain has occurred, and before teeth that are too diseased or damaged need to be extracted. A dental examination by your veterinarian can help to determine if periodontal disease is developing below the gum line or other damage to your pet’s teeth.

Dental recommendations will be tailored to your individual pet’s needs, but will include a plan for daily oral home care. Good dental care is important not only for prolonging the healthiness of your pet’s teeth, but also for improving their quality of life dramatically along the way.

What types of dental care services are offered at your hospital?

We offer comprehensive dental assessments and cleaning. It includes a full scale and polish, a thorough dental exam by the veterinarian and evaluation of full mouth radiographs (x-rays) to assess the health of the tooth roots. The results of the examination and x-rays are paired together to develop a recommended treatment plan if required beyond scaling and polishing. Dr. Alyssa Eslinger has a special interest in dentistry and offers additional dental services, including pediatric orthodontics, periodontal therapy, and minor tooth fracture repair. Dr. Eslinger does accept referrals from local veterinarians who do not provide the same breadth of dental services, but some dental procedures, such as root canals, are referred to a local dental specialist.

Our dental services are performed with a light dose of anesthesia to ensure that we can complete the cleaning and examination safely and effectively. Non-anesthetic dentistry is not offered at our clinic, as it is not possible to perform a proper cleaning in an awake dog or cat. Their dental appointment is the same as yours. If you can’t convince your pet to quietly sit upright in a chair for 60 – 90 minutes with their mouth held wide open the entire time, then how can we achieve that? We won’t be able to get the job done, and we’ll get our fingers, and our x-ray sensor chewed on! Therefore, it is our ethical duty to say: buyer beware when it comes to non-veterinary, non-anesthetic dental services. They are not professionals and are not trained to diagnose or treat dental disease.

Prior to scheduling a dental assessment and cleaning under anesthesia, you will be asked to bring your pet in for a full physical examination. It allows the veterinarian to evaluate their overall health (including their dental health) and identify any potential anesthetic risks. Senior pets or pets with other diseases may require pre-anesthetic bloodwork or additional diagnostic testing to further evaluate any concerns identified during the physical examination.

Once the physical examination and any recommended pre-anesthetic testing are performed, a thorough estimate will be provided, so that you are aware of the financial commitment in proceeding with your pet’s dental care. Veterinary dentistry is a bit different than human dentistry, in that we typically perform the examination and treatment during the same procedure. Your dentist would diagnose the problem at the time of the exam, and would generally send you away with an estimate to book the recommended treatment another day. Given that we have your pet under anesthesia already, it generally makes the most sense to proceed with treatment as soon as the examination and x-rays are completed. The possible treatment options are thoroughly discussed during the pre-dentistry appointment and are laid out in the detailed assessment that is provided ahead of time. A low end and a high end will be present on the estimate to account for the fact that we cannot determine an accurate treatment plan until the examination and x-rays are completed. You can discuss this in more detail with your veterinarian, so you are comfortable before committing to the procedure.

Dentistry is an out-patient procedure, meaning that your pet will go home with you the same day. A morning drop-off time is arranged, and you will receive a call once your pet’s procedure is completed. They will typically be monitored in the clinic for a minimum of three hours after recovering from anesthesia. You will receive a recommended pick up time once the procedure is completed. We will also arrange a time that works for you to meet with one of our registered veterinary technologists for discharge.

What are the signs of dental problems in cats?

Most cats with dental disease do not show obvious signs other than bad breath. It is rare for a cat to show any overt signs of dental pain unless that pain is severe and/or widespread. Cats with many loose or painful teeth may not exhibit obvious pain to their owners. It can sometimes take something as severe as a tooth root abscess or a broken jaw before an animal will stop eating. People who have had dental problems understand that even though your mouth hurts, you find a way to function and eat despite that pain. It is more common for owners to see a response in their pet’s attitude after the severe dental disease is treated, rather than there being convincing signs of discomfort prior to treatment.

If you notice a sudden change for the worse in your cat’s breath, difficulty eating hard food, discharge around their lips, or even a mass in their mouth, contact us for a dental exam to assess your cat’s oral health. There may be dental disease requiring intervention. Ideally, regular examinations with your veterinarian will identify plaque, tartar, and gingivitis when they can be treated more proactively, rather than reactively.

Are some feline breeds more susceptible than others?

While all cats are susceptible to dental disease, some breeds are more susceptible to dental problems than others. These breeds include Balinese, Burmese, Exotic Short/Long Hair, Himalayan, Oriental Short/Long Hair, Persian, Siamese, and Tonkinese.

What is feline tooth resorption?

Tooth resorption in cats is a painful dental disease whereby a cat’s teeth are being attacked by their own body and erosions form in the structure of the tooth. These erosions expose the inner tubules and nerves inside the tooth, which causes significant pain and sensitivity. Feline tooth resorption affects approximately half of all cats at some point in their lifespan, and that percentage begins to increase in their senior years. It is not common for these lesions to be noted by the cat’s owners. It is more common that a veterinarian identifies these lesions during annual examinations, which is part of why these regular check-ups are so important.

Clinical signs of tooth resorption often go unnoticed as they can be subtle. If your cat shows signs related to tooth resorption, this may include drooling, bleeding gums, difficulty eating hard food, and a chattering jaw.

The only treatment for affected teeth is extraction, as there is no way to repair the damage caused. Extraction relieves the pain that the cat is experiencing from the exposed nerve endings. While the process of tooth resorption is well understood, the underlying trigger has not been identified. This, unfortunately, means there is no known prevention which is effective. The only strategy aside from extracting effective teeth which can be recommended is having regular dental check-ups and maintaining good dental hygiene.

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