Taking care of your kitty’s pearly whites made easy

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Kritika Manchanda
Dental problems do not see the age or breed of the cat. They are most commonly associated with plaque and tartar formation and are referred to as periodontal diseases
Generally dental diseases tend to show with the age just like in humans. But we cannot ignore the fact that even young cats can be affected by them. Dr Freya Javeri from Ahmedabad says that the most common dental problem in cats includes Stomatitis and Gingivitis, due to tartar and deficiency of B group vitamins. Tooth resorption is another common dental problem seen in cats.
Signs and symptoms
Most common symptoms indicating that your pet might have dental problems –

  • Ulcers on gums
  •  Excessive drooling
  •  Swollen gums
  •  Loose teeth
  •  Pus
  •  Difficulty in chewing food
    Pet parents should understand that mouth disorders and dental problems are different, but their symptoms can be similar. The most common mouth disorders in felines include –
  • Mouth ulcers
  •  Salivary cyst
  •  Stomatitis (inflammation of mouth lining which leads to difficulty in eating)

Regular dental check-ups
Ideally cats should have their teeth examined once every 10 months and cats who already have periodontal diseases should be examined every 3 – 6 months. Look out for signs of gum inflammation or bleeding gums and visit the vet at the earliest. If left untreated it can turn to loss of tooth/teeth of your pet and inability to chew food.
In severe cases, inflammation may also indicate kidney diseases. Dr Freya says, “Cleaning the mouth regularly with a dental paste designed for cats every week would
help prevent tartar formation. These pastes are enzyme-based so cannot be substituted with human toothpastes”. And like we always say ‘prevention is better
than cure’! the sooner the problem is caught, the easier it is to treat it.
Factors affecting dental problems
Teeth alignment and diet are the two main factors majorly predisposing to dental problems in cats.
Teeth alignment

  •  Short nosed breeds like Persians, Chinchillas, British and Exotic Shorthairs are most likely to have misaligned teeth leading to tartar deposition and increased plaque formation.
  •  Dr Freya says that flat-faced breeds like Persians are prone to misaligned dentition due to overcrowding of teeth and retained teeth.
  •  It is possible that in some cats their milk teeth are retained even after the permanent teeth have erupted. This can lead to dental problems at a later stage.
  •  Other possibilities like birth abnormality, jaw fracture and shape of jaw, might also cause dental problems or mouth disorders

Diet
Diet is the second major factor causing dental problems in cats. There is a deep relation between dental problems and the type of food (wet or dry) the pet eats. Providing only soft or wet food would mean that your pet’s teeth are devoid of abrasion action. Such type of food can itself get deposited around the teeth which over an extended period of time will lead to bacteria and plaque formation. On the other hand, dry food causes abrasive action. But the shape and size of the kibble matters a lot. Dr Freya suggests that when your pet is in pain give them soft food which is easy to chew. But do not completely remove kibbles from the diet. Dry kibble helps in abrasion of teeth which in turn leads to prevention of tartar formation. If your cat is diagnosed with dental problems, your vet might suggest some dietary changes depending upon your pet’s age, dental problem, overall health, etc.
Diagnosis and treatment
The diagnosis of dental problems can vary from X-rays to visual examination. The method of treatment depends upon the condition of teeth and the problem pertaining.
If the dental problems are not too advanced, your vet may prescribe antibiotics. If medicines don’t work, tooth extraction (usually done under anaesthesia) is the best
treatment option.
Tooth abscess
Apart from these common problems there are some advanced dental problems that can affect your pet. The most common of these is tooth abscess. Tooth fractures can introduce bacteria into the roots of the teeth which in turn can cause abscess. Diagnosis of tooth abscess includes visual examination and tooth X-ray. Treatments include tooth extraction or antibiotics.
Dental care tips

  •  Smell your cat’s breath and ensure that there isn’t foul odour. An odour can be a sign of digestive problems or gum diseases.
  •  Push back your cat’s lips and have a close look at the teeth and gums. The gums should be pink and there should be no signs of bleeding and swelling. The teeth
    should be clean of any brownish tartar.
  •  Always use a feline toothbrush and toothpaste. By using human toothpaste on your cat, you would be inducing more harm.
  •  Regular teeth and mouth check-ups are a must.
  •  You can also get chew toys for your pet. This would satisfy their need to chomp and chew and keep their teeth strong and healthy.
  •  Don’t stop him from gnawing on toys, as it helps in massaging the gums, flossing the teeth and removes plaque buildup as well.
  •  Watch out for most common signs – pawing, hyper salivation and chewing with just one side of the mouth.