Many pet owners wonder about the importance of dental proceeders for their dog, and even more so when it comes to cat owners, we often hear, “does my cat really need a dental?”. The short answer to this question is, “yes,” and we are here to help you understand why.
For starters, while kittens have just 26 teeth that come in during their first few weeks of life and last through around the six month mark, adult cats have 30 teeth that are considered permanent. “Permanent” however, seems to be a subjective term as according to Daniel Carmichael, DVM, a dental specialist at the Center for Specialized Veterinary Care in Westbury, NY, only about 10 percent of cats will make it through life without experiencing some sort of dental problem (as reported by Cornell). Wow, that means that 90% of felines will experience some sort of dental problem. Still asking, “does my cat really need a dental,” now?
Four Types of Feline Dental Issues
There are four types of feline dental disease. Periodontal disease (the most common), feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL, somewhat common), feline gingivitis/stomatitis syndrome (FGS, less common), and feline dental fractures (broken teeth, usually due to accident or injury). Cats can be affected by any one, or all of these conditions and leaving things be without veterinary dental attention can lead to complications such as infection, dental abscesses, and more.
- The most common, periodontal disease in cats, his estimated to affect over 85% of felines by the age of six. This can be due to a buildup of tartar on the teeth as well as bacteria on the gums leading to gingivitis and other complications that can even lead to the need for an extraction of one or more teeth.
- Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, or FORL for short, can affect up to 50% of cats. These lesions form just under the cat’s tooth surface and can lead to damage of the tooth and the root. It can be incredibly painful, especially if the tooth pulp is affected at all, and requires veterinary attention.
- Next, feline gingivitis (swelling of the gums or gingiva), and stomatitis syndrome (collectively referred to as FGS) is much less common than the other two issues. It’s found more often in cats that are positive for the leukemia virus (FeLv), feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV), or other similar issues. This is a much more serious condition that can lead to the need for many – and in some cases all – of the cat’s teeth to be extracted.
- And finally, fractured teeth are just as it sounds – a broken tooth in the cat. This can happen from trauma or injury and even sometimes from a cat chewing things that he or she should not have chewed. Not only is this usually quite painful for the cat, it also leaves an open path for infection into the tooth and worse, potentially the mouth and jawbone.
As with any dental issue, a veterinarian can help diagnose and treat any problems. Left unattended, any of these issues can quickly turn into a major problem if bacteria or infection spreads into the jaw, down the throat, or elsewhere through the feline’s system. Read more about all of these conditions in Cornell’s article, When Kitty Needs a Dentist.
Preventing Dental Issues in Cats
As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and when it comes to feline dental care, this holds true here as well. Regular dental cleanings for your cat can help reduce the chances of any of the common problems from occurring. There is the option to brush your cat’s teeth at home, but many cat owners will tell you this is challenging at best though if you can manage, it’s absolutely recommended and will help. How frequently your cat needs dental care may vary for each individual pet. The best course of action is to have your regular veterinarian check your kitty’s teeth at their regular annual to semi-annual checkup. They can check your cat’s mouth for any signs of tartar buildup or other dental issues and recommend when a cleaning or any other dental work is needed.
Most importantly, don’t wait – have your veterinarian check your cat’s teeth and see if a dental should be scheduled. Many cats show few if any signs of dental distress outwardly and by the time your kitty is reluctant to eat, has really bad breath, or any other outward symptoms, the issue has progressed to be somewhat serious. Talk to you vet today – and it’s still National Pet Dental Health Month, so take advantage of our specials and book your appointment now!