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Dental Care

Home Dental Care Methods for Your Cat


Brushing your cat’s teeth regularly is an essential component to maintaining a healthy lifestyle for her. Nearly 90 percent of cats develop dental problems over their lifetime. Just like us, they can develop gum disease, tartar and plaque build-up, foul breath, and abscesses, all of which can develop into infection and tooth loss. With proper feline dental care and the right type of food, you can help take action against these problems.

As a carnivore, your cat needs to have clean, strong, sharp teeth. Unfortunately, many cats aren’t provided an adequate food for conditioning their teeth. Hill's® Science Diet® Adult Oral Care cat food contains fiber to reduce plaque and tartar build-up, unique kibble technology for clean teeth and fresh breath, and other essential nutrients to your cat’s overall health.

If your cat has a tooth problem, it may take a while for you to find out. One reason is that cats instinctively hide their pain as a response to not appear vulnerable to predators, so it may take you awhile to figure out that she’s hurting. If she hides more than usual, refuses to sleep, or becomes more aggressive, this could indicate that she’s experiencing tooth pain.

The Problem With Plaque on Your Cat’s Teeth
Plaque is the film you feel on your teeth when you wake up each morning, formed by saliva, bacteria and food particles. Plaque can quickly turn into tartar, a hard yellowish deposit on the teeth. It can also cause gum infection (gingivitis), which is the first stage of periodontal disease. Some 70 percent of cats have periodontal disease by the time they turn two, but other types of gum disease can occur earlier. Bacteria from plaque accumulation can cause infection in the lungs, liver, kidney and heart.

Check for Tell-Tale Signs of Feline Dental Concerns
Between vet visits, be sure to check your cat for these important warning signs:

  • Bad breath: an unusually strong odor may suggest digestive problems or a dental condition

  • Bleeding or a dark red line along the gums

  • Gum inflammation: swollen gums can lead to gum disease, tooth loss, inability to eat, and can be a sign of kidney disease or feline immunodeficiency virus

  • Ulcers on the gums

  • Excessive drooling or pawing at the mouth area

  • Difficulty chewing food or refusal to eat

Take your cat to the vet immediately if you notice any of these warning signs. Your vet may recommend a professional dental cleaning, which begins with blood work to determine if she’s healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. If she is, your vet will administer anesthesia and begin a comprehensive cleaning. This includes:

  • A complete oral exam and x-rays to identify problems under the gum line

  • A full cleaning under the gum line to prevent periodontal disease

  • Professional scaling to remove plaque and tartar build-up on the crown

  • Polishing the teeth to prevent plaque and bacteria

How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth at Home
The gold standard for cat oral care at home is brushing. Here are some tips for getting started:

  • Get your cat used to the idea of having her teeth brushed. Keep the sessions short and positive. Gently massage her gums with your finger or a cotton swab.

  • Use a toothbrush designed especially for cats; it’s smaller than a human toothbrush and has softer bristles. Toothbrushes that you can wear over your finger are also available.

  • Use toothpaste designed for cats; using your own toothpaste can cause distress and upset your cat’s stomach.

  • If your cat has inflamed gums, brushing her teeth too hard might be painful. Visit the vet for a quick check-up before you begin brushing.

  • Dentistry treatments provided at this hospial

Also, be sure to reward your cat for being so patient while you brush her teeth with either a treat or play. This will let her know that she did a good job, as well as help make future brushings easier on you both.

Alternatives to Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth
In addition to brushing your cat’s teeth, you can take other actions to ensure that she keeps her pearly whites clean. Chew toys and oral gels, along with specifically formulated dental treats and food can slow the formation of tartar and avoid the onset of dental disease.


Hospital Dental Care

Prior to anesthesia, your pet will be given a combination of medications to prepare for full anesthesia. In order to determine which medications are safe and appropriate for him/her, we will perform blood tests to identify unseen diseases, and in addition reduce the likelihood of complications during anesthesia.

  • Pre-anesthetic CBC blood work is done to determine red/white blood cell/platelet count. Red blood cells (RBCs) carry oxygen to the tissues of the body and transport carbon dioxide to be exhaled by the lungs. Identifying low RBCs is vital.

  • Platelets are a crucial component of the blood clotting system. Adequate numbers must be present to prevent or stop bleeding. Therefore, it is very important that platelet numbers are known prior to your pet's dental procedure and to identify clotting issues.

  • Pre-anesthetic biochemistry blood work is done to determine whether the drugs for pain/premedication prior to surgery and anesthetic are safe for your pet. The results will give the veterinarian an overview of how well the internal organs are functioning, including the liver and kidney that will metabolize the Isoflurane anesthetic gasses. Pre-surgical testing can also identify unseen diseases and reduce the likelihood of complications during anesthesia.

  • For geriatric cats we also like to do a SDMA/T4 test. The SDMA(kidney) and T4(thyroid) test is a very reliable kidney marker and will give the veterinarian insight into the stage of chronic kidney disease. The thyroid plays a major role in metabolism and effects all organs in the body. All this information will help us create an anesthesia plan specific for your pet at this stage in his/her life.


IV fluid therapy is important during the peri-anesthetic period even when your pet is a healthy patient. IV fluids will correct normal fluid losses, and support the cardiovascular function (heart function and blood circulation). It also gives us the option to counter any negative effects of the anesthetic premed/induction agents, for instance low blood pressure.

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Radiographs!! At Verzijlenberg Veterinary Hospital, we have a digital dental radiograph machine. Intraoral radiographs are a very important part of a dentistry procedure because a visual examination doesn't tell your veterinarian everything he needs to know. Teeth are like icebergs; it’s what you can’t see that’s causing the trouble. Radiographs are necessary for dental treatments to allow your veterinarian to see "inside" a tooth and beneath the gumline to assess the health of the bone and supporting tissues that hold teeth in place.

Dental issues that can only be seen below the gum line with radiographs would include feline resorptive lesions, root fractures, and periodontal pockets.

During this time, your pet will be under anesthetic and all vital signs will be monitored by a second RVT(registered veterinary technician). 

The RVT will do a complete dental prophy which includes scaling the teeth with an ultrasonic scaler. This removes all plaque and calculus buildup. After the scaling, they will finish off with polishing all of the teeth to smooth out any micro abrasions on the teeth, to help prevent the build up of plaque in the future. 

Our veterinarians check for damaged teeth and 'pockets" - much like a dentist does with people. Your cat’s gums should be firmly attached to each tooth, so bacteria can’t get in and destroy the gum tissue, bone tissue and roots.

If your cat has a tooth that is infected or the pulp is exposed, your cat is in pain and likely needs a tooth extraction. Our veterinarians will recommend pulling a tooth if we believe it's absolutely necessary for your cat's long-term health and wellbeing.


The recovery is a critical phase of anesthesia. It begins when the anesthetic gas is turned off, but it does not end at the time of extubation. Once your pet is in ICU and 

awake, a designated RVT will stay with your pet and monitor him/her for the first 30 minutes. For the next three hours, she will continue regular monitoring until all parameters return to normal and your baby is fully awake, aware, warm and comfortable.

Depending on the procedure, our hospital uses an NSAID (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory) per injection at the hospital for post-operative pain management to keep your pet comfortable for the first 24 hours. If necessary, we will add a long acting (3 days) medication and an NSAID suspension to continue at home. Pain is now considered the 5th. vital sign and consequences of pain are: a weakened immune system, tissue edema (fluid collection), infection and impaired wound healing. Your pet should not be in pain at any time during his/her recovery at the hospital or at home.A perioperative prophylactic antibiotic will be given for surgeries that do not extend past three hours; and if indicated, you will continue with antibiotic tablets at home


When your pet goes home again, the RVT that sat with him/her after the dental procedure, will discuss discharge information with you and answer any questions you might have.

Gingivitis is measured in 4 separate stages,
depending on severity

Calculus or tarter: hard deposits, often stained yellow or brown, that form on teeth due to inadequate plaque control.

Gingiva: soft tissue surrounding the teeth.

Gingivitis: inflamed, or swollen  gum tissue that may bleed easily when probed or brushed.

Periodontitis: advanced gum disease in which the inner layer of the gum and bone pull away from the teeth and form pockets and alveolar, or supporting, bone is destroyed.  Untreated, it will lead to tooth loss.

Plaque:  a film composed of food particles mixed with saliva and bacteria that constantly forms on the teeth.  It is a key factor in the  development of dental disease.

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