Cat Losing Teeth
Toothless cat - photo by klugi (Flickr)
You have a cat losing teeth? If you have kept your cat for a considerable time, I think you should be ashamed of yourself, really. Please don't leave the page in a huff...That statement is a little harsh, perhaps, but to be honest, it is easy to check a cat's teeth on a regular basis.
If a cat is actually losing teeth, either by extraction because of disease or simply losing them naturally, it will almost certainly be the sequel to unchecked periodontal infection. To be absolutely clear, "periodontal infection" is also called gum disease or periodontal disease. "Periodontal" means "around the tooth". It is a bacterial infection of the gums and bone around the teeth. It leads to inflammation, which in turn leads to the destruction of the bone. Teeth are held in their bony sockets by the periodontal membrane. Infection in the membrane and underlying bone leads to root infection. This leads to a cat losing teeth1.
The key would seem to be to simply keep an eye on our cat's teeth. I do this when my lady cat yawns and when my three legged cat vocalises as he opens his mouth very wide when he screams at me.
My lady cat, Binnie, is at least 18 years of age and her teeth are still sound. I see discoloration etc. but I do not see inflammation of the gums. As for Charlie my three-legged cat, his teeth are similar to Binnie's in terms of health. However, he is not anywhere near as old as her. I think, though, that both of them have good genes in respect of resistance to gum disease. I know some cats develop quite nasty gum disease fairly early on in their life. I know someone whose Persian cat has lost most of her teeth, I am told. I don't know the circumstances under which this happened, however, so no criticism is intended.
The best course of action is prevention and that means cleaning our cat's teeth. That is what is recommended1 although I don't know anyone who does that. I feel pretty confident that the average, good cat caretaker watches their cat's teeth and if they look bad they take their cat to the vet for cleaning. This is a more expensive and "reactive" route and therefore less good for the cat and the bank balance. But it is manageable nonetheless.
The big downside of a veterinarian cleaning your cat's teeth is that a general anesthetic is administered. This is an inherently dangerous process. I think that I overheard a vet or his client say that one in one hundred cats die under anesthetic because of the anesthetic. If that is true it means a one percent chance of your cat dying for the sake of clean and healthy teeth. Would you, as a person, take that risk for yourself? I think not. Prevention is clearly better than the cure.
I have a page on PoC about toothpaste for cats (human toothpaste is not generally appropriate for cats1) - Dental get for cats. You can make a homemade cat toothpaste "by mixing one tablespoon of baking soda with one teaspoon of water"1.
Unless a cat is habituated to having his or her teeth cleaned by a person, they will normally resist and make it all but impossible to carry out. Is there an argument that breeders should train their cats to accept teeth cleaning!? There is certainly a sound case to be made for cat caretakers to clean the teeth of their kitten if they have adopted one. "Start regular brushing when the cat is one or two years old, while gums are still healthy.."1
I also have a page on cat teeth cleaning. But I'll go over what the "experts" say here briefly.
The following progressive approach may help:
- Rub that part of the the cat's muzzle that is over the teeth. Your cat should accept this;
- Next, raise the cat's lip and massage the gums with your finger;
- Gently rub your cat's teeth and gums;
- Introduce a very soft and small headed toothbrush using water from a can of tuna;
- The first time the cat toothpaste is used put it on your finger and rub with that and then use soft toothbrush.
The part of the gums to focus on is the line where the gums meet the teeth (gingival sulcus - an area of potential space between a tooth and the surrounding gingival tissue and is lined by sulcular epithelium 2).
Cat Losing Teeth -- Note:
1. Cat Owner's Home Veterinary Handbook
2. Wikipedia - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gingival_sulcus - image reproduced under a Wikimedia commons license.