Dental Healthcare

Dental HealthcareYour cat’s dental health is very important to us.  Approximately 70% of cats over the age of 2 to 3 have some degree of periodontal disease (tartar, plaque, gingivitis, tooth resorption).  Each comprehensive physical examination will include an evaluation of your cat’s mouth.  A dental cleaning is typically recommended when gingivitis, the first stage of periodontal disease, or significant tartar is present.  Gingivitis is a reversible stage of dental disease.  If it is allowed to progress, irreversible dental disease may result and tooth extraction may be required.

A healthy mouth means your cat has a great quality of life.  Since cats are notorious for hiding pain and discomfort, you may not know there is a problem in your cat’s mouth.  Often times, owners see a dramatic change in their cat’s personality and behavior after a dental procedure. 

Anesthesia is required for a dental cleaning and/or extractions.  Simply “plucking off tartar” is a disservice to your cat.  Why?  For starters, dental disease begins under the gum line and this is the cause for gingivitis, even if there is not a significant amount of tartar on the tooth.  “Plucking” tartar off the tooth will not address the tartar and plaque under the gum line.  Anesthesia allows a veterinarian to evaluate the entire mouth, not just the outside of the teeth. Included in this evaluation are all surfaces of the tooth (i.e. the inside of the tooth), other structures in the mouth (i.e. tongue, larynx), and the roots of the teeth with dental x-rays.  Even though we get a sense of the disease in your cat’s mouth at their comprehensive physical examination, often times there is disease hiding in the mouth, especially under tartar.  Anesthesia allows the veterinarian to chart the entire mouth, scale all surfaces of the tooth, scale under the gum line, extract (remove) diseased teeth only if necessary, polish each tooth, apply fluoride to each tooth, and apply a sealant to prevent disease in the short term. All of these services are performed with each dental cleaning.

Cats Only Veterinary Hospital strives to take every precaution possible to decrease the risks of general anesthesia for your cat.  Prior to a dental cleaning, our hospital requires a comprehensive physical examination and pre-anesthetic screening within 1 month of the procedure for our young patients.  For our older patients, we also recommend a blood pressure measurement and radiographs (x-rays) prior to anesthesia.  These pre-surgical requirements are to give us a more complete picture of your cat’s health, to gain as much information as possible prior to anesthesia, identify potential underlying medical conditions that may pose problems with anesthesia, and to tailor an anesthetic protocol specifically for your individual cat. 

Each of our patients will have pre-medications administered 10-15 minutes prior to the procedure.  The purpose of pre-mediation is to allow you cat to relax before the procedure and reduce the amount of anesthetic medication that is required to anesthetize your cat.  Anesthesia is typically induced with propofol, a very safe and fast acting medication, and maintained with gas anesthesia after intubation.  Each patient will have an intravenous (IV) catheter, fluids administered during the surgery, and be monitored throughout the procedure.  We monitor your cat’s heart rate, respiratory rate, temperature, blood pressure, blood oxygen levels, and EKG throughout the procedure.

For additional information regarding dental health and your cat, please visit the links below.

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Preventative Dental Homecare

Prevention is key for a healthy mouth!  Preventative dental homecare is also a major focus of our hospital since dental disease is uncomfortable (and potentially life threatening if severe) and we would prefer our patients to keep all of their teeth.  Dental home care is recommended ONLY when there is minimal dental disease present (i.e. if your cat is less than a year of age) or immediately following a professional dental cleaning.  If your cat has dental disease present (i.e. plaque and tartar), the following recommendations will not treat the dental disease and a professional dental cleaning should be pursued.   Additionally, attempting dental prevention at home while dental disease is present may result in pain and may prevent any future attempts at dental homecare.  Below are some recommendations to keep your cat’s mouth healthy and happy.  Our doctors will be happy to discuss these options with you.

Brushing Your Cat's Teeth

There is no substitute to brushing your cat’s teeth with a soft bristled toothbrush once daily.  Use a veterinary toothbrush (C.E.T) or a soft bristle children’s toothbrush from your local grocery store.  Finger brushes are not recommended because your cat may bite your finger and these toothbrushes do not have adequate bristle action along the gum line.  Brushing should begin during the kitten stage of life after the adult teeth have erupted when there is no visible plaque and tartar in the mouth.  For adult cats that are not accustomed to having their teeth brushed, the approach below is recommended.  Continue with each step until your cat becomes comfortable with the step (each step may takes days to weeks depending on the cat.)  Be patient and persistent.  A slow, consistent approach (same family member, same time of day, same location, tasty treat after a brushing, etc.) is also advisable.  If your cat is having a bad day, give your cat a break and try the next day.  Do not force any step on your cat.  Doing so may compromise any future attempts at brushing your cat’s teeth.  Please visit the link below for an educational video on how to brush your cat’s teeth.
  1. Stroke your cat’s lips and muzzle without opening their mouth.  Your cat should become comfortable with you touching the outside of their mouth before proceeding to the next step. 

  2. Place a toothbrush with C.E.T. poultry or seafood flavored toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste) on a flat surface for your cat to investigate.  Give your cat a treat when they investigate the toothbrush and/or put the toothbrush in your cat’s food dish.  Be creative with the early introduction of the toothbrush.  The goal here is to create positive feelings towards the toothbrush before you begin to brush your cat’s teeth.  Once your cat is used to having their muzzle touched and is familiar with their toothbrush, proceed to the next step. 

  3. Lift your cat’s lips without opening your cat’s mouth.  Massage the gums and teeth with your finger, beginning with the front teeth.  Continue this process until you are able to touch the upper back teeth.  Make sure your cat does not bite you!  You may place some toothpaste on your finger during this step.  Once your cat is comfortable touching and massaging their gums, proceed to the next step.

  4. Try opening your cat’s mouth slightly and lifting the lips.  Your goal is to visualize the upper back teeth in the mouth.  Once you feel comfortable with this step, start brushing the outside of all teeth at the gum line with a toothbrush and toothpaste once daily.



VOHC Approved Dental Diets

If you cannot brush your cat’s teeth, there are veterinary approved dental diets that have been proven to reduce and prevent plaque and tartar.  Your average dry diet DOES NOT protect your cat's teeth from plazue and tartar.  All dental diets and treats should have the VOHC (Veterinary Oral Health Council) seal.  Visit the VOHC website (link is below) for a list of approved dental diets and treats.  Only the following diets and treats have been awarded the VOHC seal:

  • Hill’s t/d Prescription Diet
  • Science Diet Oral Care Diet for Cats
  • Purina DH Dental Health Veterinary Diets
  • Friskies Feline Dental Diet


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1533 DeKalb Street            Norristown, PA 19401            (610) 279-2287 (CATS)

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