How Often Do Cats Need Dental Cleaning?

Brushing your cat's teeth can help control tartar and keep teeth healthy.
Brushing your cat's teeth can help control tartar and keep teeth healthy. (Image: cynoclub/iStock/Getty Images)

As a cat owner, you need to realize the impact that regular dental care can have on your pet's long-term health. Long-term dental problems can make your cat sick; some dental issues are symptoms of other health problems that require immediate veterinary treatment. You can work with your veterinarian to develop an effective dental care plan for your pet.

Dental Cleanings for Cats

Your cat's teeth will need to be cleaned if he is showing symptoms of periodontal disease, such as plaque and tartar buildup on his teeth. The buildup needs to be removed because it is formed by bacteria, which can cause infections, tissue damage and tooth loss if left untreated. The purpose of a dental cleaning is to remove the buildup safely and effectively. Your veterinarian will sedate your cat and use a dental scaler to scrape off tartar, plaque and any food residue. Once the teeth have been scraped with the scaler, your veterinarian will polish the teeth to smooth their surfaces and remove any small amounts of plaque that may remain. The smoothing process helps make it more difficult for plaque to re-accumulate on the freshly cleaned teeth.

Using Radiographs

Your veterinarian may choose to have radiographs done on your cat while he is sedated for his tooth cleaning. The radiographs are essentially X-rays of the inside of the mouth. Radiographs allow your veterinarian to gain a better understanding of your pet's oral health as well as help him to address any problems that may be developing. The radiographs will allow your veterinarian to examine the internal condition of your cat's teeth as well as the health of the roots of the teeth and the bone surrounding those roots. If problems are developing underneath your cat's gumline, your veterinarian may be able to recognize, diagnose and correct them before they progress any further. This can help prevent tooth loss and decay as well as aid in diagnosing more complicated health conditions.

Dental Problems

If your veterinarian determines that your cat has underlying dental problems that cannot be corrected with a simple cleaning, he may have to prescribe or administer additional treatment. Loose teeth or those that have significantly decayed may need to be extracted. Antibiotics may be prescribed if your cat has an infection, tooth abscess or even severe periodontal disease.

Home Dental Care

You will need to work long term with your veterinarian to keep your pet's teeth healthy. Your veterinarian may recommend changing your cat's diet if he believes dental conditions are making it difficult for your cat to eat or that a different meal regimen might improve your pet's dental health. You also may need to start brushing your cat's teeth at home to extend the amount of time in between dental cleanings while keeping plaque and tartar buildup to a minimum. You can brush your cat's teeth by rubbing them gently with a toothbrush and toothpaste designed for use on felines. Note that it may take a little while for your cat to get used to having his teeth brushed.

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