February is National Pet Dental Health Month: Prevention is better than cure

Emphasizing the importance of keeping our pets’ teeth and gums healthy, the American Veterinary Medical Association, along with several veterinary groups sponsor the month of February as National Pet Dental Health Month.

Feline dental and oral health

Until September 7th I will give 10 cents to an animal charity for every comment. It is a way to help animal welfare without much effort at no cost. Comments help this website too, which is about animal welfare.

Regular dental checkups are essential in order to maintain our cats’ optimum oral health. While periodontal disease is almost completely preventable, it continues to be one of the most common medical conditions in cats. Thus routine annual veterinary dental checkups and cleaning can prevent a host of serious feline dental problems and also helps to maintain our cats’ robust physical health.

Poor oral health can have a serious impact on our kitties’ overall vitality; therefore monitoring our cats for signs of dental disease is a pivotal part of prudent cat care. Common symptoms of feline dental disease that requires prompt veterinary attention are:
Bleeding from the mouth.

  • Drooling or dropping food from the mouth.
  • Loss of appetite or loss of weight- which can also be the result of multi-system organ disease- requiring prompt veterinary examination.
  • The cat shies away when being touched in the mouth area.
  • Loose or discolored teeth or teeth covered in tartar.
  • Bad breath- which may also be symptomatic of organ disease.

Demonstrating the cost-effectiveness of routine veterinary dental care, a 2013 study conducted by VPI Pet Insurance revealed that the average cost of preventing dental disease in pets was $171.82, but the cost of treating dental disease was $531.71. So why do many kitty guardians either fail or refuse to have their veterinarian provide dental care? Many kitty guardians worry about the possible risks entailed in having their cat put under general anesthesia.

However, to ensure that essential veterinary dental procedures are correctly performed, general anesthesia is necessary. Nevertheless, according to The American Veterinary Dental College, the risk of an anesthetic complication is much lower than the high risk of chronic oral infection. When general anesthesia is administered properly, the risk is extremely low.

Helping to further reduce anesthesia risk, prior to it being administered, a pre-anesthetic assessment is performed which includes blood tests and other necessary tests to help ensure the cat’s safety. The use of modern anesthetic drugs combined with local anesthetic blocks helps to minimize the depth of the required general anesthesia.

Additionally the cat’s response to anesthesia is carefully monitored during any procedures. Many cats recover quickly and within 15-20 minutes following the completion of these procedures are awake and moving about. Most cats are ready to go home within several hours.

Among some of the more innovative dental treatments available today is Root Canal Therapy and reconstructive surgery. These treatments are now being performed routinely by veterinary practitioners who have been trained and certified.

For example: The canine teeth (fangs) of cats can often develop fractures at the tip of the tooth exposing the sensitive pulp tissue. This generally leads to pain, infection and the death of the pulp tissue. Depending on the results of x-rays taken under sedation to thoroughly examine the tooth, this condition can be treated with root canal therapy or, extracted.

To save cats’ teeth, Root Canal Therapy is now routinely performed by certified veterinary dentists. This treatment can be extremely helpful for both cats and dogs who are appropriate candidates for the procedure. Following the procedure a crown may be recommended to strengthen the tooth.

While the cost of the procedure is often a consideration, depending on the tooth involved the cost may not differ that greatly from an extraction, especially in the case of the larger teeth or those teeth with complicated root structures. In fact, Root Canal therapy may, in the long run be the wiser option since saving the cat’s tooth may prevent further costs related to future bone loos or periodontal disease.

Although certain pet health insurance programs may cover the cost of these therapies, an alternative option is Credit Care for Pets for kitty guardians who are considering having this surgery performed.

I find the growing strides in excellent dental care for cats quite exciting. But to prevent serious (and expensive) feline dental disease, there is nothing more important than giving our cats their regular routine veterinary dental examinations and prophylaxis.
How often do you think that cats should receive routine dental care? Share your opinions with a comment.

Photo credit: Flickr user: Emma Paperclip

6 thoughts on “February is National Pet Dental Health Month: Prevention is better than cure”

  1. Dental health for cats is a complicated issue, especially for those of us struggling to meet just basic costs. I feed Greenies, which I hear my cats crunch on — they do not swallow them whole — and I add TropiClean liquid to their water. This is an additive which claims to keep cats’ teeth free of plaque and eliminate the need for brushing. Whether it lives up to that or not, I don’t know; I am doing the best I can for my beloved cats — that I do know.

    • Hi, my cats won’t go for Greenies at all.
      Any other suggestions?
      Please respond on some of the other articles that aren’t Jo’s. I respect your opinion.
      How do you feel about declawing?
      How do you feel about mandatory microchipping?

      • Hey, Dee! Nice to see you here again (I’m a cheerer for BCR, in case you don’t remember). On microchipping, my cats have never been chipped, as they are indoor only cats and I am very careful (also, there are lots of doors in our house, lol). On declawing, it’s not printable on this nice site — but to clean it up, NO WAY, NO HOW, NOT EVER unless it is for the health of the cat — I can’t imagine an instance of that, but perhaps an impacted/infected claw?) On dental treats, other brands do make treats they tout as being good for cats’ teeth; I believe Purina does, and Friskies, and probably some of the other “healthy, natural” (i.e, PRICEY) ones. I feed my loved ones the BEST possible but I am not a zillionaire, so I do have to be careful. I don’t want to feed them junk, either; so it’s a delicate balance. I’ve actually heard that raw chicken necks are very good for cats’ teeth; I’ve never fed them to my cats as salmonella is a concern. The dental water-additive liquids such as TropiClean might work for you. IDK how effective they are, but I do use them. Good luck! 🙂

  2. I tend to believe that teeth cleaning is another big ticket vet item. I believe that most domesticated cat caretakers routinely look at their cats’ teeth. Build up and discoloration are easy to see. There are many dental products on the shelves, but it’s very confusing as to what are the best.
    I have a lot of respect for Dr. Fogle but disagree with his recommendation of poultry bones. They have a tendency to splinter and can puncture any portion of the alimentary canal from the esophagus to the intestine. I try to avoid emergencies as much as possible.
    The butcher at my Publix market will sell, sometimes give, me huge ham or beef bones that my cats can gnaw on. They don’t splinter at all. And, when they grow tired of chewing on them, they turn them into toys to bat around.
    There are, ofcourse, cases of dental issues that can only be taken care of by a vet. I just dealt with one of those. I had a very emaciated old boy appear here that had such a serious overbite that his fangs were digging into his lower “lip”. He had a very nasty abscess on one side, and his fangs had to be extracted just so he would be able to eat. I was terrified that he wouldn’t survive the anesthesia in his poor state of health. But, I’m happy to say that he is thriving now.

  3. Michael,

    When done correctly daily brushing of our cat’s teeth can help keep dental problems at a minumum. Cats do get used to having their teeth brushed, and have no issues with it once they get used to it. Even taking a piece of moistened gauze, cotton or a washcloth and rubbing it over the teeth and gums can help to keep tartar away.

    The problem is that dry food does nothing to keep cat’s teeth clean, according to Dr. Jean Hofve.


    Most cats don’t chew dry food. Instead they swallow it whole. So if the dry food does’t make contact with the teeth and gums, how can it help to keep their teeth clean and get rid of the tartar which causes so many oral problems?

    As Dr. Jean reminds us, dry food is always just for the “convenience of the guardians.”

    So these products that are tauted as a great way to clean cat’s teeth is simply a marketing strategy, and is, in fact, no benefit to the cat.

    Yes, starting to clean cat’s teeth when they are young, just like trimming their nails, is always the best way to go- but with patience and consistency, older cats can learn to accept this part of kitty care- without the guardian losing a finger!

  4. You speak a lot of good sense and it’s a good article. However, I am not yet convinced that it is possible to consistently clean a cat’s teeth effectively.

    What I am saying is that we are almost compelled to take our cat to the vet for teeth cleaning.

    Dr Fogle recommends that we feed our cats with chicken with bones in the chicken. For example, chicken wings might be good. The idea is that the bone cleans the teeth. Also, this replicates what happens in the wild.

    Even this I believe is not particularly practical. I put some chicken with bones down for Gabriel. He didn’t eat it. He ate a bit of the meat but not the bone.

    I’m currently using Royal Canin Dental. This is dry cat food. The pellets are particularly large. Also they say it prevents calcium buildup or something like that.

    The big problem we have really is cleaning our cat’s teeth and yes they can be trained from a young age to do it (possibly) but it is so unnatural for a cat to have his teeth cleaned and in practice I believe it is all but impossible for the average cat guardian.


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