Noticing a little yellowing on Max’s teeth? If you can see the tartar buildup, it’s already too late to take care of the problem yourself. You’ll need to get him in for a thorough dental cleaning before it’s too late. Otherwise, his teeth will wind up falling out.
Dangers of Tartar Buildup
Periodontal disease is the most common mouth issue among all felines. Roughly 85 percent of cats over 6 years old have some degree of periodontal disease, according to the Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine. This condition causes lots of tartar to accumulate and become a rigid coating on the teeth. Bacteria forms, causing inflammation in his gums, a condition known as gingivitis. Poor Max’s gums bleed, soften up and he’ll eventually start losing teeth.
Another common condition, feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, leaves plaque lesions on the bone tissue just underneath the gum line. Gum and bone tissue break down, making his teeth loose or forcing them to fall out over time.
How it Happens
Tartar buildup happens for a variety of reasons. Much like humans, sometimes it’s just genetics. Maybe Max’s parents both had bad teeth and he’s just genetically prone to it. His teeth problems can also stem from his food. Feeding him a diet of wet or moist chow allows food to stick to his teeth, causing tartar buildup and a greater risk of losing teeth. Hard kibble tends to act like tiny toothbrushes, scrubbing his teeth clean every time he eats. Once in a while, although rare, perfectly healthy teeth just break and rot from everyday chewing. Cats tend to hide their pain so you probably won’t even know that he has a problem.
Your vet will do his best to thoroughly check Max’s mouth at his checkup, however, there’s only so much he can see while Max is growling and pushing away. If Max’s tartar buildup is severe, your vet will probably suggest scheduling a dental cleaning. This type of cleaning isn’t quite like your six-month checkup at the dentist. Max actually has to be asleep for the process. He’ll be put under general anesthesia so your vet can thoroughly inspect each and every tooth, scrape away excess tartar and extract any teeth that are loose, broken or severely rotted.
Typically it’s a same-day procedure, allowing you to pick up your furry companion shortly after he wakes up. Depending on how much work the vet had to do, he might send you home with a couple days worth of pain killers to keep Max subdued.
Prevention is Key
Of course you probably could have prevented this whole mess to begin with simply by brushing Max’s teeth every night when you brush your teeth. However, most people don’t realize that their furry critters need daily mouth scrubbing. Don’t go peering through your guest bathroom for a spare toothbrush. Even the softest of human brushes is much too harsh for kitties. Drive on over to the pet store and pick up a feline toothbrush and toothpaste kit. While you’re over there, have the on-site veterinarian or pet expert show you how to properly brush Max’s chompers. It’ll take some practice, but he’ll get used to it eventually. Just make sure he’s calm and relaxed first, instead of catching him in the middle of an intense play session.
Lastly, ask your vet if a dental diet is a good fit for your lovable companion. Specialized dental feline foods are designed to keep his tartar in check, minimizing his risk of losing any more teeth.
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.
Melodie Anne Coffman specializes in overall wellness, with particular interests in women's health and personal defense. She holds a master's degree in food science and human nutrition and is a certified instructor through the NRA. Coffman is pursuing her personal trainer certification in 2015.