Just as we need to keep our teeth in good health, cats also need a healthy set of teeth to ward off the risk of conditions like gum disease and even heart disease.

PDSA vet, Vicki Larkham-Jones says: ‘Dental disease doesn’t just cause pain in the mouth and teeth; it’s also linked with other health problems around the body, including kidney and heart conditions.

‘Gum disease can be caused by a build-up of tartar and is more common in older animals – but by this point, a lot of permanent damage has already been caused, so it’s best to start brushing your pet’s teeth from a young age.

‘Another benefit of brushing teeth during the first few weeks is that the kitten gets used to it – so it can be a daily, stress-free procedure for the rest of his life.’

As with humans, plaque – a mixture of food particles and bacteria – sticks to the tooth’s surface.  The minerals in saliva harden this, turning it into tartar which firmly attaches to the teeth.  Over time, plaque and tartar spread under the gums, leading to tissue damage and a build-up of infection.  If it continues, dental disease will damage the gums and the teeth may fall out.

Brushing is the best way to combat plaque build-up and, if started early and in the right way, it will become a normal part of your kitten’s routine.

Vicki explains the best way to brush your kitten’s teeth:

‘Wear disposable gloves and approach your kitten from the side rather than the front.  Begin by lifting your kitten’s lip and gently touching his teeth and gums.  Then start cleaning the teeth using a flannel folded over a finger, a ‘finger brush’ or a pet toothbrush.  Special pet toothpastes should also be used, which taste nice and are formulated not to foam in your cat’s mouth.  Be sure to press the toothpaste into the brush though, otherwise your kitten will eat it and it won’t be as effective – it needs to come into contact with his teeth.  Start with a few teeth and gradually increase the brushing – but stop if your kitten gets upset, as it needs to always be a positive experience.  By building up slowly, step by step, he will get used to having his teeth brushed and won’t be scared.  The same method can be used with older animals but it may take a little longer for them to get used to each step.’

There are other ways you could help: feeding specially formulated dental diets, using special toys to help with tooth-cleaning, offering dental chews and avoiding sticky, sweet foods will also help prevent dental disease – but tooth-brushing is the gold standard method for prevention.    

If you notice any signs of dental disease, such as bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating or rubbing the face with a paw, make an appointment with your vet for a check-up.

Here's the link to a short video on YouTube about a cat that wants to have his teeth cleaned

A Morning Kiss

A morning kiss, a discreet touch of his nose landing somewhere on the middle of my face.
Because his long white whiskers tickled, I began every day laughing.

Janet F Faure