Educational Articles

Cats + Dental

  • Bad breath (halitosis) is caused by bacteria, plaque, tartar, decomposing food particles, or death of tissue. Treatment of halitosis in cats involves eliminating the cause(s). The teeth need to be thoroughly cleaned and polished under general anesthesia. Teeth affected by advanced periodontal disease or tooth resorption need to be extracted. Reducing the accumulation of plaque, tartar, and resulting halitosis can be achieved by using VOHC accepted products.

  • Cats have four types of teeth: incisors, canines, premolars, and molars. There are two types of malocclusion: skeletal and dental. Skeletal malocclusion results when an abnormal jaw length creates a malalignment of the teeth. A dental malocclusion occurs when the upper and lower jaw lengths are considered normal but there may be one or more teeth that are out of normal alignment. Skeletal malocclusions include mandibular distoclusion (Class 2 malocclusion), mandibular mesioclusion (Class 3 malocclusion) and maxillomandibular asymmetry. Dental malocclusions include mesioverted canines and mesiopalatoverted maxillary canines.

  • There are many reasons why your cat might need oral surgery. Acute sensitivity to plaque and oral tumors are two conditions that may require surgery. Your veterinarian may refer your cat to a board-certified dentist, surgeon, or oncologist. Prior to your cat’s surgery, blood tests will be performed in order to prepare a anesthetic protocol suitable for you cat. Post-surgery, anti-inflammatory medications may be administered as well as narcotic medications. Most cats recover with minimal discomfort and will need to eat soft food until healing is complete.

  • There are many causes of oral swellings, including local trauma, infection, fluid accumulation and tumors. If you find an oral swelling in your cat’s mouth, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some oral swellings can be painful to touch, so to protect yourself from being bitten, do not touch the swelling. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests such as intraoral radiographs, blood tests, and tissue sampling. Treatment and prognosis will depend on the cause.

  • Oral fibrosarcomas are the second most common malignant oral tumor in cats. These tumors arise from the connective and fibrous tissues of the oral cavity. These tumors may spread to the underlying bone causing pain. Treatment involves surgical removal of the tumors and radiation treatment may be considered if surgery is incomplete.

  • The most common oral tumor seen in cats is squamous cell carcinoma; the second most common is fibrosarcoma. Both of these tumors are locally aggressive, can grow to a large size very quickly, ulcerate, and cause considerable pain. Diagnosis may be performed through fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Metastasis to organs is not common with both tumor types; however, staging is recommended to choose therapy. Surgical excision provides the best control but may not be possible in some cases. Radiation therapy may provide some benefit either for primary control or after surgery.

  • Occasionally, teeth in cats do not erupt in the right location resulting in pain and poor function. The options include orthodontic appliances to move the teeth, extraction, or crown amputation with restoration. Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for cats. Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dental specialist (avdc.org) for advice or referral.

  • Plaque forms on teeth shortly after eating and within 24 hours begins to harden and eventually turns into tartar. Tartar serves as a place for bacteria to grow, leading to gingivitis. As gingivitis worsens, periodontal disease develops which includes inflammation, pain, and tooth loss. Prevention of plaque and tartar build-up is key; use VOHC accepted food and/or water additives, wipe or brush your cat’s teeth daily, and have your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings.

  • Anesthesia-free dentistry is a service that is commonly offered at pet stores and grooming facilities. Veterinarians use general anesthesia during dental procedures to permit a thorough oral examination and treatment of any diagnosed dental disease. Unfortunately, anesthesia-free dentistry is often a higher-stress option than the alternative. Scaling the teeth involves placing sharp instruments inside the mouth and with a wiggly pet, injury can occur. Anesthesia-free dentistry is far more limited than veterinary dentistry. Dental cleanings should only be performed while your pet is under anesthesia. Your veterinarian will customize your pet’s anesthetic plan for your pet’s overall health condition.

  • Dental X-rays in cats are similar to those taken in humans. In many cases, intraoral dental X-rays are necessary to identify and treat dental problems in your cat. Nearly two-thirds of each tooth is located under the gum line. Your cat will need to be anesthetized in order to accurately place the X-ray sensor and perform a thorough oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedures.