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Cats Veterinary:  Why Your Cat NEEDS Dental Care

Is dental disease REALLY a huge deal? In short answer, YES. Periodontal (gum) disease is the number one diagnosed medical problem in dogs and cats. By the young age of two, 70% of cats already have some form of periodontal disease. Dental disease andperiodontal inflammation and infection have been linked to numerous medical problems including heart disease, kidney disease, liver disease and diabetes. Maintaining optimal dental health is a key component of wellness and preventative care.

What is Periodontal Disease?
Peridontal disease is defined as the destruction of tooth attachment caused by bacteria. It begins when bacteria form on teeth in a substance called plaque. Minerals in the saliva harden plaque into dental calculus (tartar) which is firmly attached to the teeth.  Plaque and tartar will start to move under the gumline causing inflammation called gingivitis. Gingivitis is the first form of periodontal disease. Periodontal disease at this point is still reversible. If gingivitis is not controlled at this stage, the bacteria within the gingiva change into a more virulent type creating more severe inflammation which can lead to systemic diseases, and ultimately tooth lose.

What are the Signs of Dental Disease and Periodontal Disease?
Unfortunately in most cases there are no outward signs of dental disease and periodontal disease until it is very advanced. The first few stages of periodontal disease are not noticeable unless you are looking for these changes. Routine wellness care visits are vital in detecting the early and reversible stages of periodontal disease. Cats Veterinary staff is happy to show owners how to evaluate their cat’s dental health and educate owners on home care.

Feline Dental Care

What are the Stages of Periodontal Disease and How Can I Tell What Stage My Cat Is?
During your cat’s wellness exam with Cats Veterinary veterinarians- your cat’s dental health will be evaluated and given a score. If your cat is in need of a professional dental prophylaxis (cleaning) a staff member will provide an estimate. Monitoring and evaluating your cat’s dental health at home is encouraged. By gently lifting the lip you can check for gingivitis and plaque and tartar buildup.
More information on periodontal disease can be found at http://www.avdc.org/periodontaldisease.html

What is the Treatment for Dental Disease and Periodontal Disease? What Does a Dental Cleaning Entail?
Treatments of periodontal disease is multi-faceted. Plaque buildup, if removed daily, can be managed at home (see Home Care section), but once tartar has formed and periodontal disease has progressed a professional dental cleaning with general anesthesia is necessary.  Anesthesia-free dentistry is NOT recommended (http://www.avdc.org/dentalscaling.html) and is even illegal in some states. While general anesthesia does come with some risks, Cats Veterinary general anesthesiaprotocols ensures that every precaution has been made to ensure a safe anesthetic experience. Please ask our veterinary staff for more information regarding our general anesthesia protocols and requirements.
A dental prophylaxis (dental cleaning) consists of several steps:

  1. Thorough examination of the entire mouth. While under general anesthesia the veterinarian is better able to examine the entire mouth and throat looking for any medical abnormalities.
  2. (Optional) Digital Dental Radiographs:  Dental radiographs are one of the most important diagnostictools available to veterinarians. Dental radiographs allow the veterinarian to examine the internal anatomy of the teeth, roots and bone that surrounds the root.  Even if dental radiographs show no additional medical abnormalities, they become part of the cat’s medical record and establish a base-line for future comparison.
  3. Supragingival Scaling: This is the removal of the plaque and calculus above the gumline. This is done with the use of both a hand scaler and ultrasonic scaler.
  4. Subgingival Scaling: This is the thorough cleaning of the area under the gumline to remove disease-causing bacteria. This is performed by hand and can be the most time consuming step of the dental prophylaxis.
  5. Polishing: Scaling and cleaning the teeth will roughen the teeth. Polishing will smooth the enamel(surface) of the tooth.
  6. Periodontal Probing and Dental Charting: Teeth and gingiva are carefully examined and measured. Any diseased teeth or tissues are then treated.
  7. Fluoride Treatment: Strengthens the enamel of the tooth.
  8. (Optional) Medical Laser Therapy (MLS LASER) Treatment: Laser therapy uses light to accelerate the body’s natural healing processes. Reduces inflammation and promotes healing- used in patientsdiagnosed with gingivitis or post operatively after having teeth surgically extracted.
  9. Oral Antibiotic Therapy. Oral Capsule or liquid is prescribed to most patients for approximately 5-7 days after dental prophylaxis.

Is Dental Disease and Periodontal Disease Painful?
Yes. Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to owners- but this does not mean they are not feeling discomfort or pain. Animals possess a strong instinct to hide signs of illness or weakness. If your cat is diagnosed with advanced periodontal disease or is in need of oral surgery (including surgical extraction of teeth), Cats Veterinary is committed to providing pain relief during and after the dental procedure. Controlling pain properly promotes healing and the overall health of the patient.

Home Care for Healthy Teeth
Once teeth are professionally cleaned and any subsequent gingivitis or periodontal disease has been treated- owners can then take control of maintaining optimal dental health. The gold standard of home care is tooth brushing. To be truly effective, however, it must be performed multiple times per week- daily brushing would be ideal. The purpose of brushing teeth is to remove bacteria buildup and plaque BEFORE it calcifies into calculus/tartar which requires professional cleaning to remove. Most cats will allow their teeth to be brushed, but you need to take a very gradual and gentle approach. The hardest part of brushing your cat’s teeth is getting started. You will need a feline specific toothpaste and toothbrush. For a video on how to brush your cat’s teeth visit:http://www.partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet-owners/cat-teeth
There are many commercially and veterinary available dental hygiene products. Cats Veterinary recommends products that have received the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) Seal of Acceptance. The VOHC Seal is only awarded to products that meet or exceed the VOHC standard for slowing accumulation of dental plaque or tartar. The complete list is available at www.VOHC.org.