With such a cute face, who wants stinky breath and yellow teeth? Tartar is a leading cause of periodontal disease and bad breath in kitties. Fortunately, your cat doesn’t have to suffer the effects of this unsightly substance. There are ways to remedy and prevent feline tartar buildup.
What is Tartar?
All tartar begins as plaque. Plaque is simply the accumulation of bacteria on teeth. If plaque is the beginning of dental disease, tartar is plaque’s older, foul stepmother. As plaque builds up on your kitty’s teeth it hardens into a calcified, yellow coating called tartar. Unlike plaque, you can’t remove tartar by brushing. That’s why it’s important to prevent tartar formation on your kitty’s teeth. This stinky, unsightly coating can lead to gingivitis or periodontal disease.
The only way to effectively remove tartar is through a professional dental cleaning. Your veterinarian will perform this procedure while your kitty is under anesthesia. For many vets this is the most routine surgical procedure they perform. During your cat’s dental visit, your veterinarian will scrape away her tartar using a variety of instruments you’ve probably seen at your dentist’s office. Don’t worry, she won’t feel a thing.
The main objective when it comes to tartar buildup is prevention. The younger your kitty is, the easier it will be to start her on a dental cleaning routine. Most veterinarians recommend at least weekly tooth brushing for your cat to prevent the accumulation of plaque. The good news is you don’t need any fancy tools. Your finger covered in a bit of gauze is the best kitty toothbrush out there. As for toothpaste, always use one specifically formulated for cats. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that may be harmful to your kitty. Some older cats are wary of having their teeth brushed. Try dipping your finger in a bit of tuna water if she struggles or seems hesitant.
Dental Diets and Treats
Dental diets and treats are a great complement to a good dental cleaning routine, but they won’t suffice to prevent tartar on their own. These foods are usually a bit larger and chewier than most feline foods and treats, encouraging your cat to chew them longer and harder. This prolonged chewing action scrapes away plaque. Remember though, they only work if your cat works to chew them. They’re probably not the best option if she tends to gulp down her food. Your veterinarian can help you find a dental diet that’s right for your kitty.
Always check with your veterinarian before changing your pet’s diet, medication, or physical activity routines. This information is not a substitute for a vet’s opinion.
Christina Stephens is a writer from Portland, Ore. whose main areas of focus are pets and animals, travel and literature. A veterinary assistant, she taught English in South Korea and holds a BA in English with cum laude honors from Portland State University.