What Works to Get Tartar off of a Cat's Teeth?

Keep your kitty's smile bright, shiny and tartar-free.
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Just like people, cats need regular dental care to keep their teeth free of tartar. If your kitty has a buildup of tartar on her teeth, it's time to visit the vet for an exam. To remove the tartar, he'll need to give your cat a professional dental cleaning.

What is Tartar?

Your kitty's mouth contains lots of bacteria that, when mixed with the food particles she eats, form plaque on the teeth. Over a period of time, usually around three to five days, this plaque buildup hardens into a substance called tartar, according to the McMonigle Veterinary Hospital. When tartar starts to accumulate on your little one's teeth, it can cause gum disease, inflammation, tooth loss and pain, making it uncomfortable for her to eat and giving her smelly breath. Infection and inflammation of the gums can even affect your kitty's internal organs, a potentially fatal condition. Removing the tartar relieves these symptoms, keeping her gums healthy and her teeth nice and clean.

Professional Cleanings

A professional dental cleaning, performed by a veterinarian, is the only way to remove serious tartar buildup once it forms on your furry friend's teeth. This procedure is performed under anesthesia, allowing the vet to remove the tartar from under the gum line, something that your cat simply wouldn't allow if she were conscious. Once the tartar is scraped away from the teeth using dental tools, they are then polished. The polishing makes the surface of the teeth nice and smooth, which helps stop new tartar from building up on them. After the procedure, your kitty should be back to her old self in no time, typically the same day for most dental procedures. To prevent any dental issues, have your vet perform an annual dental exam to determine when your kitty needs her teeth cleaned.

Regular Brushing

Once tartar hardens onto your kitty's teeth and has the chance to sit, it can't be removed by brushing her teeth. Fortunately, it can be prevented from forming at all if you regularly brush your furry friend's teeth every couple of days. Use a special soft-bristled toothbrush, designed for cats, along with some yummy meat-flavored cat toothpaste to keep her teeth free of plaque and food. Start slowly, rubbing the paste on her teeth with your fingers, then progressing to the brush. While it may take some time, your little one should eventually allow you to keep her teeth clean and free of tartar and plaque.

Crunchy Kibble

Dry cat food has a harder texture than soft food and helps to scrape any plaque from her teeth when she chews it. There are also some special dental treats available that do something similar. The harder-textured food also doesn't stick to the teeth as much as softer, canned food, meaning that it won't lead as much to plaque and ultimately tartar. Speak to your vet about placing your cat on a prescription dental diet to see if it would help to maintain your kitty's dental health. Combine the use of crunchy dental treats with brushing to give your kitty lots of positive reinforcement after a tooth-brushing session. This way, your little one thinks that she's getting a yummy treat after she has her teeth brushed, while she's actually getting twice the dental care.


The only way to get serious tartar buildup off of your cat's teeth is with a cleaning by a veterinarian, but it can be prevented through regular brushing and the use of dental treats or food. Some types of dental chew toys designed for cats can help remove soft tartar when gnawed on by your cat, recommends the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. Look for these in pet supply stores. Never try to remove the tartar yourself with dental tools or other sharp objects -- not only can this potentially hurt your kitty, but it can also make the surface of the teeth rough and scratched. Roughly textured teeth are more prone to tartar buildup, potentially worsening the problem for your little one.


When brushing your kitty's teeth, always use special feline toothpaste, sold in pet supply stores. Human toothpaste contains ingredients that are potentially harmful or even toxic to your kitty. Be wary of "miracle" products, like sprays or drops, that claim to remove your furry friend's tartar. These are no substitute for regular dental exams and cleanings with a veterinarian; they could also potentially harm her.

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.

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