Your cat can have some of the same dental problems that you encounter. Tooth decay and gum disease occur and your veterinarian will take care of those problems like a human dentist would help you. There are even veterinarians who specialize in cat dentistry. Here are some of the common dental problems found in cats and what to look for to make sure your cat's teeth and gums are healthy.
Anatomy of Your Cat's Teeth
The teeth in all mammals are similar. Teeth are specialized bones with an enamel coating. The enamel protects the bone underneath from wearing down. It also prevents bacteria from damaging the bones. A tiny nerve extends from the gum up into the tooth. When an infection occurs, the nerve becomes inflamed and painful.
Your cat has an instinctual drive to not let an injury or illness show. There are likely no predators in the home with your cat, but it is still compelled to show no weakness for fear of being attacked and eaten. This is why you need to actively check on your cat's dental condition. Tooth and gum problems can become severe before your cat shows any signs of a dental issue.
What to Watch for in Your Cat's Mouth
Check your cat's teeth and gums weekly and look for the signs of the following dental problems:
- Plaque or tartar - Food particles left on the tooth surface develop a firm substance, called plaque. If allowed to sit, plaque hardens into tartar. This is the precursor to tooth decay and, if tartar occurs under the gum line, gum disease. Hold your cat's head back and open their lips to expose the teeth. Look for yellow or brown deposits on the tooth surface.
- Gingivitis - When tartar irritates the gums below the gum line, inflammation of the tissue occurs. Gingivitis is the early sign of gum disease. If not treated, the gums will begin to move away from the teeth, creating a pocket where food and bacteria can hide. You'll see that sections of your cat's gums are red and swollen. Your cat will develop a foul breath and may begin drooling and scratching at their mouth.
- Periodontitis - As the gum disease continues, the tissues pull away from the teeth even more and the teeth may become loose. Redness, swelling and pockets of yellowish pus will appear near the base of the teeth. By now, the pain has become severe and your cat will have difficult eating, and they may stop eating completely.
- Stomatitis - When the infection in the gums makes its way to other tissues in your cat's mouth, the entire inside of the mouth becomes red, swollen and painful. Your cat will stop eating because of the pain. They will paw at their mouth and complain should you try to look into their mouth.
If you notice any of these dental problems, get your cat to the pet hospital as soon as possible. Don't let these problems become painful for your cat or affect their eating.