Cat Dental Hygiene – What You Need To Know

Cat Dental Hygiene – What You Need To Know

Each and every human that has ever taken care of a cat knows that cat oral hygiene is as important as human oral hygiene. Whether it is cat gum disease, tooth decay, plaque or tartar formation, most cats develop some form of dental disease or another through the course of their lives. And, while we are supposed to clean the teeth of our felines on a daily basis, our cats don’t especially like that – this makes their dental care even tougher!   

Dental hygiene is a very real problem, both in kittens and older cats. Given that cats can’t speak and that they are good at hiding signs of pain, it can get very difficult for pet owners to identify whether their cat is suffering from dental pain or not. While cats in the wild are known to chew on bones and grass to clean their teeth, there is no suitable alternative available for you other than to take the initiative and clean your cat’s teeth.   

In order to clean the teeth of your cat, you would need to brush their teeth regularly (and preferably, on a daily basis!). However, while brushing your feline’s teeth, you need to be using cat-friendly toothpaste. Cat-friendly toothpaste is usually chicken or beef flavoured and is safe for cats to consume. You can also use a soft, finger-held toothbrush to clean the teeth of your cat – they enjoy the feeling of humans gently massaging their teeth with such a brush. Further, it is important to start brushing the teeth of your cat at an early age so that they get used to the alien sensation of feeling a human finger in their mouth. Older cats usually take longer to adjust, and may not allow their pet owners to clean their teeth on a regular basis. 

Pay attention to the following symptoms to check whether your cat has developed any dental or gum issues: 

  1. Difficulty in chewing, or having a side preference to which they eat on 
  2. Preferring to eat wet food or soft food (less painful to eat) 
  3. An odour to their breath when they come close ( bacteria cause this) 
  4. More drooling than usual,  
  5. Bleeding gums or 
  6. A loss of appetite  

Remember though that bleeding gums are hard to spot as cats will swallow the bloody saliva, and as cats are remarkably good at hiding pain, most of the time it’s impossible to tell witout lifting up the lip to see the teeth.  

Two of the most common cat gum disease are gingivitis and periodontal disease. 


The dental disease found commonly in cats – gingivitis is an inflammation of the gums around your feline’s teeth. This can lead to serious pain and discomfort which may even affect your feline’s quality of life. Plaque that is left on the teeth for too long builds up over time and goes deeper into the roots of the teeth to cause gingivitis.  

The biggest reason for the occurrence of gingivitis is poor dental hygiene, however, your cat may also suffer from this gum disease because of other factors such as malalignment of teeth and hereditary issues.  

How to tell if your cat has Gingivitis?

Gingivitis can be really painful for your cats. If your cat has gingivitis, they will usually show signs of discomfort. Some of the most common symptoms of gingivitis that can be observed are:

  • bad breath
  • drooling
  • difficulty biting down food/ picking up toys
  • red and swollen gums
  • heavy tartar build-up
  • preference to eat wet or soft foods. 

Bad breath is usually the first sign that can be observed among cats suffering from gingivitis. You will likely notice this in your day-to-day interaction with your feline friend. You must contact your vet immediately if your pet has bad breath for a prolonged period, or as soon as you observe any of the aforementioned symptoms. 

Cat Gingivitis treatment

In order to treat a feline that is suffering from gingivitis, the cat would need a dental x-ray (we don’t charge for this during the procedure), followed by a deep dental cleaning performed by a veterinarian. Your veterinarian may also prescribe antibiotics or other medication depending upon the severity of the case. If gingivitis is in its early stages, you can attempt to treat it at home by trying to keep your cat’s mouth and teeth clean. However, we strongly suggest heading to the veterinarian as soon you identify signs of cat gum disease. 

However, the good news is that cats usually recover from this gum disease after an in-depth scaling procedure. However, good dental health and hygiene have to be maintained once the dental scaling is performed. Without the maintenance of proper dental hygiene, this gum disease could re-occur over time.  

You can book an appointment for a cat or kitten dental by clicking here. [redirect to] 

Periodontal Disease 

The other gum disease found most commonly in felines is Periodontitis (a.k.a. Periodontal disease). Gingivitis left uncontrolled for too long leads to periodontitis. When this happens, the tissues connecting the gum to the teeth become severely weak because of the rapid growth and spread of bacteria. This may cause tooth loss, and the resulting pain may cause your cat to lose appetite. 

Unlike gingivitis, periodontal disease cannot be reversed. The process can only be slowed down in an effort to ease the pain of your pet. This is why identifying symptoms of gingivitis early on and treating it as soon as possible is the best possible solution. 

Periodontitis Treatment

The treatment for periodontitis requires your vet to completely remove the plaque and mineral build-up using the process of scaling and polishing the teeth. While not all teeth may be salvageable, your vet would try to recover as many teeth as possible. Often several teeth need to be extracted to provide your feline with a more comfortable life and the least amount of pain possible. 

 Alternate Ways of Maintaining Dental Hygiene  

At Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic, we understand that cats are not always the most obedient companions and acknowledge that not all of them like having their teeth cleaned on a daily basis. Here are therefore some other alternatives that can help maintain good dental hygiene for your cats:  

  1. Water additives: Instead of brushing your cat’s teeth daily, you could opt for a water additive such as Aquadent. Water additives aren’t effective on their own, but using them in combination with other treatments as prescribed by your vet, can help keep your pet’s teeth in top shape.  
  2. Scaling: Scaling is another highly effective method of getting rid of all the plaque and tartar that accumulates on a cat’s teeth over the course of time. Your veterinarian would use an ultrasonic scaler to get rid of all the bacteria and plaque that has built up over time.   
  3. Diet: Lastly, you can also alter the diet of your feline and feed them kibble such as Royal Canin Dental and Royal Canin Renal [Link to online store]. Such kibble is made in such a way that promotes your feline to chew more and, in the process, cleans up their teeth. 

FORL (Feline Odontoclastic Resorption Lesion) 

FORL (Feline Odontoclastic Resorption Lesion), or as it is most commonly known, tooth resorption, is the condition wherein the dentin (hard tissue lying beneath the enamel of a tooth) erodes and becomes irreparably destroyed. Cats suffering from FORL often develop holes in the surface of their teeth, particularly near the gumline. These holes allow bacteria to enter the teeth causing internal infection and further ailments. What makes this dental condition even more dangerous is that such internal infections can also lead to kidney disease (even kidney failure!) and heart issues, severely impacting the overall health of the feline.  

The exact cause for FORL, or tooth resorption, is unknown. However, this dental condition affects more than one-third of adult domestic cats and is known to be extremely painful. While older cats and breeds such as Siamese, Persians and Abyssinians have a considerably higher risk of suffering from tooth resorption, all cat owners must be aware of FORL and should try and keep an eye out for this.  

How to tell if your cat is suffering from FORL (Feline Odontoclastic Resorption Lesion)?  

It is usually very hard to tell that your cat is developing signs of tooth resorption without performing radiographic and clinical screening. If you notice the general signs of dental issues such as bad breath, swollen gums, increased salvation or difficulty in breathing, you must bring them in for a dental check-up immediately! The quicker your vet can diagnose this condition, the less painful it will be for your cat in the long run.  

FORL Treatment

The ideal treatment for this FORL, or tooth resorption, is the complete removal of the affected tooth. However, this can be extremely complicated as the combination of dental damage and bacterial infection could have made the affected tooth extremely fragile. To avoid further complications, your vet may conduct comprehensive radiographic scanning and suggest an alternative approach based on the results.  

 At Southern Cross Veterinary Clinic, we now have access to some of the most advanced digital radiography for pets in Australia, which help our veterinarians quickly scan your pet and thereby suggest and implement the best of course action to rid your feline friend of the unwanted pain and agony of dental disease.   

We want your cats to keep their teeth for as long as possible and so our comprehensive and affordable dental procedures allow this 

Call us at 1300 DOC SAM (ie, 1300 362 726) or visit to book a Dental Consult now!