Dental Care for Cats
Many cats need preventive dental care by age 2 or 3. How often a dental examination, scaling, and polishing is needed will depend on the rate at which calculus forms on the cat's teeth. A program of dental hygiene will limit the rate at which this happens and help prolong the health and life of your pet. This includes the following:
Brushing Your Cat's Teeth
Although it is only necessary to brush the cat's permanent teeth, it may be worthwhile to start a regimen of toothbrushing while your cat is still a kitten, just to get her used to the procedure.
Toothpastes and other dental products designed for people are not appropriate or healthy for cats. However, pastes, gels, sprays, and solutions are now available specifically for pets. There are cat toothpastes available that use baking soda as the base. Others use oxygenating substances to limit the growth of anaerobic bacteria. Virbac, Petrodex, Drs. Foster & Smith, and CET have lines of pet toothpastes. Many of these products now come in flavors that are attractive to cats, such as tuna and poultry. Nolvadent and Peridex oral washes contain 0.1 percent chlorhexidine, which is both antibacterial and antiviral.
Cats may resist having their teeth brushed. However, a step-by-step approach often will lead to acceptance. Begin by rubbing the cat's muzzle over the teeth. This is easily accepted, as it mimics a natural behavior of face rubbing. Then raise the lip and massage the gums with your finger. When this becomes routine, wrap a piece of cloth or gauze around your finger and gently rub the cat's teeth and gums.
The next step is to introduce a toothbrush. Begin with a soft, small toothbrush (made for a young child). You can also purchase special fingertip brushes that fit on over a finger and give some added abrasive action. You can get small toothbrushes just for cats, too, but if you have trouble using one with your cat, try wrapping a gauze pad around your finger and putting some toothpaste on that.
Introduce the idea of toothpaste by first using the water from a can of tuna. Before using the actual toothpaste, introduce it to the cat by offering it on the tip of your finger.
Gently rubbing along the teeth inside the lip will work quite well. The most important part of the gum area to brush is the gingival sulcus, where the gum attaches to the teeth. Move the brush forward and back, parallel to the gum line, with the bristles in the gingival sulcus. It is not necessary to brush the tongue side. The cat's rough tongue will help distribute the dentifrice on the inside of the teeth.
This article is excerpted from “ Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.
Copyright © 2008 by Delbert Carlson, DVM, and James M. Giffin, MD. All rights reserved.