December 7, 2021
dental disease in cats

Dental Diseases in Cats and Treatment

What are dental diseases in cats?

Dental diseases in cats at glance. Dental care in your cat is as important as looking after your own teeth. Mouth care in the cat is often considered very difficult or impossible to tackle in many cats. But, with time and patience, some cats will allow you to do this. In the cat, the growth pattern and structure of our teeth are very similar to those of cats.

Soon, after birth, temporary or deciduous teeth are produced in the same way as humans have milk teeth and these differ from the permanent teeth which grow through to replace them between the ages of four and six months. Your cat’s permanent teeth have to last the lifetime of your pet and so a dental care program to preserve these is important.

In the wild, loss of these teeth would result in suboptimal nutrition or even starvation. Dental care in most people involves brushing their teeth twice daily and dentists would encourage ‘flossing’ as well. If you don’t do this then dental tartar, tooth plaque, and eventually mouth disease occur. Our breath smells, our mouth tastes dreadful and pain occurs. Cats are no different. 

Do cats really need teeth cleaning?

In natural life, they would hunt the prey and chew on fur and bone which act as nature’s toothbrush. Modern tinned food is mushy and even dry foods just crumble on the table of the tooth and have a little benefit at the gum margins where the disease occurs. This leaves food particles in the crevices between teeth and gums acting as a nutrition source for bacteria to thrive in, for plaque and then tartar to develop, and finally for tooth decay. 

Tartar is a mixture of food, cellular debris, bacteria, and mineral salts that are deposited on and around teeth, which with time causes gum recession, tooth root exposure, gingivitis tooth, loosening, and eventual loss. It is possible to halt this process by adopting the following preventative dental care measures.

dental disease incat

How can I improve my cat’s teeth?

1. Few people would argue that brushing their cat’s teeth is not easy or even impossible!  but if you are going to try it you must start early. Play with your kitten’s mouth as soon as you get it. Get it used to you putting your fingers in the mouth and rubbing their gums a couple of times per day.

2. The next stage is to purchase a small cat toothbrush and gently run it inside the cheek pouch next to the molars and around the sharp spiky canine teeth.

3. As they get a little older use a companion animal toothpaste with a suitably sized brush for your cat. Human brushes are too large in the head and usually too short in the handle. Do not use the human paste as they ‘froth’ which cats hate and they tend to be mint flavored which again they dislike.

4. Dental treats are a very useful aid at controlling dental tartar as part of dental care. 

What can I give my cat to clean teeth?

A good diet is an important area where all owners could easily help their pets to improve dental care. Hard crunchy foods are better for the teeth than soft ones, although there is nothing wrong with feeding a proportion of soft tinned or flat pack food. 

A food that we have seen excellent results with, is Hills Feline t/d This is a dried food with an oversized kibble with a flattened upper and lower surface. As the cat bites, the teeth go through the fibre which acts like a toothbrush. Cats on this product appear to have significantly cleaner teeth than those who are not. Nutritionally it is geared to middle aged and older cats.

How can I treat my cat’s gum infection?

Go and see your veterinarian and discuss what level of treatment is available. The first stage is to remove tartar and plaque using an ultrasonic scaler and the teeth must be polished afterwards. This improves dental health by cleaning the teeth surface and slowing re-deposition of tartar. 

Teeth having dental caries and neck lesions are often best removed in cats. If tooth roots are exposed, then these teeth may need to be removed. After this has been done it is important to institute dental care measures on a routine basis including diet and teeth brushing. some cats need antibiotics to cure the dental infection.

What are some common cat’s dental diseases?

There are many different forms of mouth disease. Infection of the gums (gingivitis) may warrant a course of antibiotics, which your veterinarian may prescribe. However, mouth disease in cats may represent more severe disease problems. If caught early by your veterinarian, rectifying procedures can be put in place. 

Cats in particular are prone to viral infections (CaliciVirus and Feline Immunodeficiency Virus) which have mouth manifestations. Cats with kidney disease or diabetes may have smelly, infected, mouths. Occasionally we may see cats with tumours and cancer of the mouth. Early diagnosis is essential. 

An extremely important area to be aware of is referred disease from primary mouth disease often as a result of poor dental care. Cats with gingivitis are a source of infection which allows bacteria to ‘float’ around the blood system where they can affect important organs served by this blood supply. This can result in heart valve disease, kidney disease and liver disease.


The message we hope we can pass to all pet owners is that if in doubt about mouth health, visit your veterinarian. If your cat has tartar and plaque get the teeth cleaned and then make sure that a regimen of dental care and hygiene is put into place. 

Can dental disease kill a cat?

Dental disease can affect the overall health of your cat. Cats with dental disease are a reservoir of bacteria  which can  spread to the blood system where they can affect important organs served by this blood supply. This can result in heart valve disease, kidney disease and liver disease.

What are the signs of dental disease in cats?

Difficulty eating, Drooling, Bad breath, Pawing at the mouth, and loose or missing teeth.

What causes dental diseases in cats?

Dental diseases in cats are associated with the accumulation of dental plaque and tartar formation over the time. 

Some other important articles:   

IMHA in Dogs

Diabetes in Dogs

Cushing’s disease in Dogs

Chocolate Toxicity Calculator Dog

This information is NOT intended as a substitute for veterinary consultation for any of your pet’s diseases. Always consult your veterinarian for a diagnosis and treatment plan.

Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM

Doctor of Veterinary Medicine

View all posts by Dr Gurpal Chahal, DVM →

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