Should My Cat Get Annual Dental Check-ups?

Dr Amelia Bunker, Resident Veterinarian - Knose Pet Insurance

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Dr. Amelia Bunker

Dr. Amelia Bunker (BVSc), our resident veterinarian at Knose, blends her passion for animal care with her expertise in veterinary science. Her journey from mixed practice clinics to insurance expert motivates her dedication to animal welfare, both in her professional role and as a pet owner.

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Max and Mandy live in a three-bedroom home with their five-year-old cat Minx. Minx may have put on a couple of extra pounds in the last year, but she’s still as spry as she was as a kitten. 

She eats a steady diet of dry food, and she’s never gone outside. Max and Mandy trade off the responsibilities of taking Minx to her annual vet visit, and so far, neither has had a problem. Max texted Mandy a few years ago when the vet urged them to schedule dental check-ups for cats, but Mandy dismissed the extra charge — especially given how young Minx was. 

Six months after Minx’s last vet visit, Max noticed that Minx was lethargic and seemed to be in pain. They rushed her to the nearest ER where they learned that Minx had a life-threatening heart infection. 

The infection originally started as a tooth abscess that allowed dangerous bacteria to enter the bloodstream and travel to the heart. Minx was ultimately saved by her human’s quick action, but the pressure put on all parties (plus the ER bills) was significant.

If Minx was on a wellness plan with a dental health check, the vet could have caught the problem long before it was a danger to Minx’s life. It would have meant that Max and Mandy could have skipped the ER bills and spent the money on something a little more fun and a lot less stressful. 

Does Your Cat Need a Dental Check-Up?

There are a number of common dental conditions that can arise if you ignore your cat’s dental health:

  • Plaque build-up. Plaque in and of itself is a small problem. However, the more build-up occurs in the cat’s mouth, the more likely it will lead to serious conditions, such as periodontitis (gum disease) or an abscess. 
  • Gingivitis. When the gums become inflamed, it weakens the supporting structure for the teeth. It can ultimately lead to tooth decay and loss, which can increase the cat’s odds of infection. 
  • Tooth loss. Loose teeth can lead to teeth loss, which ultimately leaves a major gap through which harmful bacteria can enter. 
  • Mouth sores and ulcers. Ulcers in cats can lead to a much more serious condition, lymphocytic plasmacytic stomatitis. This condition will inflame the entire mouth and may result in your cat losing all of its teeth. 
  • Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORL). This common problem is caused when the cat’s teeth are reabsorbed by the gums. This can lead to gum disease or decay. 

Studies show that 70% of cats show signs of periodontal disease by the time they turn three years old. Cats have natural defences to keep their mouth healthy (without the help of X-rays and toothbrushes), but those defences ultimately aren’t enough to fend off all serious problems. 

Taking a cat to the vet once a year is preventative care at its finest, but if you’re not thinking about total wellness, you’re still exposing your cat to health problems. A wellness plan with dental health check can be the best way to get more from your annual visit (without having to think about it again for a full year afterwards). 

How Often Should My Cat Have a Dental Health Check?

Dental check-ups for cats will vary based on a number of variables:

  • Diet
  • Breed 
  • Age
  • Overall health

For instance, if your cat is over six years old, it is more likely to get feline tooth resorption. If your cat eats mainly wet food, they may be more likely to develop gum disease. You’ll need to talk to your vet to learn more about how often to address your cat’s dental health. 

However, no matter their diet or breed or age or just how healthy they seem, experts recommend at least dental visits at least once a year.

What Goes On in an Annual Dental Check-Up?

Different vets will have different procedures, but a check-up may include any of the following:

  • An examination of the cat’s teeth, tongue, and gum line. 
  • Polishing of the teeth to protect against plaque
  • Checking for loose teeth, infections, and gum disease
  • Taking X-rays to see if any root damage has occurred

After your cat’s check-up, if the vet advises your cat needs to have a dental, this process is similar to you going to the dentist. The only difference is this is done under a general anaesthetic. You need to remember that cats are not so good at sitting still and holding their mouth open. 

At this time, the vet will give your cat’s teeth a thorough scale and polish, remove any teeth that may cause problems, and most veterinarians will also take X-rays of your cat’s teeth to check for tooth damage underneath the gumline, which we can’t see.

How Can I Help My Cat with Their Dental Health?

Besides scheduling annual dental check-ups, here are a few tips to help you keep up with their care. 

  • Serve food that is easy to eat to avoid food getting stuck in the teeth or gums. 
  • Look for dental hygiene products (e.g., chews, treats, etc.) that can help keep bacteria at bay. 
  • Brush your cat’s teeth on a regular basis (preferably starting when your cat is still a kitten). There are special cat toothbrushes and toothpaste that you can use; human products are not suitable for animals.
  • Check your cat’s mouth for potential tooth loss or bad breath. 

Not all cats will allow their owners to brush their teeth, but some will. Ask your vet to provide specific instructions on the best way to do this, but the general process is not all that different from the techniques you would use for your own teeth. 

Only the Best for Your Cat’s Health 

Your cat knows how to hides its pain. Before your cat became domesticated, it was extremely important for them to appear strong — even when they were feeling anything but. So unless it’s absolutely unbearable, your cat will just learn to live with it. It means owners never get the warning signs they need to treat their pets until the problem gets serious. 

If you’re looking for a better way of keeping your pet from serious dental conditions, consider getting a pet wellness plan that includes the preventative dental care your cat needs. We provide individualised pet wellness plans to mitigate certain emergencies. They are tailored by your vet for your pet’s needs and give you some peace of mind.  Ask your vet about Knose Wellness Plans today!

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