Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Sparkling Clean With These Simple Tips


Dental health is extremely important for cats, just as it is for humans. According to, dental disease is the most common medical condition diagnosed in cats. Poor dental health can lead to painful oral infections, tooth loss, and damage to internal organs. Proper dental care, including regular teeth cleaning, can prevent these problems and keep cats healthy and comfortable.

This article will provide an overview of dental disease in cats, signs to watch for, and ways to keep your cat’s teeth clean at home. Proper dental care is essential for your cat’s quality of life and overall health.

Causes of Dental Disease in Cats

The most common dental diseases in cats are caused by plaque buildup. Plaque is a sticky film composed of food debris, bacteria, and saliva that adheres to the teeth and gums. Over time, plaque hardens into tartar which can only be removed by professional dental cleanings.

As plaque and tartar accumulate, they lead to inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. According to the Cornell Feline Health Center, “gingivitis is the earliest stage of periodontal disease and is characterized by reddening and inflammation of the gums.” If left untreated, gingivitis can advance to periodontitis.

Periodontal disease occurs when inflammation spreads deeper below the gumline damaging the tissues and bone that support the teeth. Periodontitis can cause painful loose teeth, abscesses, and even tooth loss if not treated. Keeping plaque under control is crucial to prevent gingivitis from progressing to painful periodontitis.

Signs of Dental Problems in Cats

There are several signs that may indicate your cat is suffering from dental disease or other oral health issues. Some of the most common signs to look out for include:

Bad Breath: Also known as halitosis, persistent bad breath is one of the classic signs of dental disease in cats. The breath may smell rancid, fishy, or unpleasant.

Bleeding Gums: Inflammation and infection can cause a cat’s gums to become swollen, red, and tender. You may notice bleeding when brushing your cat’s teeth or blood on toys after chewing.

Loose Teeth: Advanced dental disease can damage the tissues anchoring the tooth, leading to loose or lost teeth. Your cat may show discomfort or change its eating habits.

Trouble Eating: Dental pain can make chewing difficult or uncomfortable. Your cat may chew only on one side, drop food, regurgitate, or seem hesitant when offered hard food.

Pawing at the Mouth: Your cat may frequently paw at its mouth, rub its face, or shake its head. This behavior suggests oral discomfort.

Weight Loss: Dental disease can make eating painful. Some cats lose interest in food and lose weight as a result.

Other signs to watch for include reduced grooming, swollen face or jaws, discharge from the eyes or nose, and sneezing. If you notice any of these issues, contact your vet for an examination.

Professional Dental Cleanings

The most effective way to clean a cat’s teeth is through a professional dental cleaning performed by a veterinarian. This procedure is done under general anesthesia which allows the vet to thoroughly examine the mouth and get deep below the gumline to clean buildup on the teeth. According to, the vet will use both hand scalers and ultrasonic scalers to remove plaque and tartar on the teeth and below the gumline.

Professional dental cleanings are the gold standard for cleaning a cat’s teeth since the cat is fully sedated, allowing for a deep and thorough cleaning. The vet can take dental x-rays, extract any problematic teeth, and perform other needed dental work during the procedure. However, there are risks with anesthesia so it’s important to get regular vet exams and only opt for dental cleanings when clearly necessary based on the vet’s assessment.

Daily Brushing

Brushing your cat’s teeth daily using a small cat toothbrush and specially formulated cat toothpaste is the most effective way to clean your cat’s teeth and prevent plaque and tartar buildup. Proper technique involves:

  • Gently lifting the lips to expose the teeth
  • Using a soft-bristled cat toothbrush or finger brush to gently brush the outer surfaces of the teeth
  • Applying a pea-sized amount of veterinary-approved cat toothpaste (do not use human toothpaste)
  • Brushing for 30-60 seconds twice daily
  • Making the experience positive by giving treats and praise

With time and patience, most cats can be trained to accept and even enjoy having their teeth brushed. Daily brushing removes plaque before it can harden into tartar and cause dental disease. By starting dental care early, your cat’s teeth can stay clean and healthy for life.

Dental Diets and Chews

One way to help clean your cat’s teeth is by feeding them dental diets and treats made to help reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Many dental diets for cats feature kibble that is shaped and sized to be able to scrape plaque off their teeth as they chew. The kibble is also often harder than regular cat food in order to provide an abrasive surface to scrub the teeth clean.

Some top vet recommended dental diet cat foods include Hills Prescription Diet t/d, Purina Veterinary Diets Dentalife, and Royal Canin Veterinary Diet Dental.

There are also dental treats and chews made specifically for cats that help clean their teeth. These function similarly to dental kibble by having texture and shapes that scrape away plaque, tartar, and bacteria as your cat chews on them. Some popular dental chew treats for cats include Greenies Feline Dental Treats and CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews.

Consult with your veterinarian for recommendations on the best dental diet and treats tailored for your cat’s needs and preferences.

Dental Wipes

Dental wipes provide a convenient way to clean your cat’s teeth and freshen their breath. Wipes are soaked in solutions that help reduce plaque, calculus, and tartar buildup. They contain ingredients like aloe, chamomile, and peppermint oil to calm irritation and freshen breath.

Wipes allow you to quickly wipe down your cat’s teeth, getting into hard to reach spots. Using a finger allows you to gently rub the gums as well. Most dental wipes are textured to help remove debris. Brands like Vet’s Best and Dechra are veterinarian recommended.

While wipes help clean the surface and disrupt some buildup, they aren’t as effective as brushing for removing plaque below the gumline. However, wipes make a good maintenance option between professional cleanings or if your cat refuses to allow brushing. Use them a few times per week along with other dental care.

Dental Water Additives

One way to help clean cats’ teeth is by adding dental water additives to their drinking water. These additives can reduce plaque buildup by preventing bacteria from sticking to the teeth and neutralizing the plaque that is already there. According to Dr. Justin Shmalberg, a veterinarian writing for 1800PetMeds, “Adding a water additive to your cat’s drinking bowl each day, or as often as recommended by your veterinarian, can help eliminate bacteria, prevent plaque and tartar buildup, and reduce bad breath.”

Some popular dental water additives for cats include Healthymouth, PetzLife, and Vet’s Best. These additives contain enzymes that help break down plaque and ingredients like chlorhexidine that have antibacterial properties to fight plaque-causing bacteria. Always follow dosage instructions carefully when using dental water additives for cats. While generally safe, you’ll want to monitor your cat’s water intake to make sure they are drinking enough.

While dental water additives can help reduce plaque and bacteria, veterinarians recommend using them in conjunction with other dental health practices for your cat. As Dr. Shmalberg states, additives should be used “in addition to, not instead of, good oral hygiene and professional cleanings.” Regular dental cleanings, toothbrushing, and dental diets/treats are important complements to a dental additive for optimal feline dental health.


Other Tips for Dental Health

In addition to professional cleanings, brushing, dental diets, and other products, there are some other tips to improve your cat’s dental health:

Get regular veterinary checkups to monitor your cat’s oral health. Your vet can spot potential problems early and perform a thorough cleaning if needed (Source).

Provide chew toys and treats formulated to reduce plaque and tartar buildup. Chewing helps scrape plaque off teeth. Look for toys made of rubber or rope that will gently massage gums (Source).

Consider dental sealants applied by your vet to protect teeth from decay. These last several months and make teeth smoother to discourage plaque accumulation (Source).

Avoid sugary human foods that can lead to cavities. Stick to your cat’s normal balanced diet and dental-friendly treats (Source).

With some effort, attention, and veterinary care, you can keep your cat’s teeth clean and healthy for many years.


Oral health is extremely important for cats, but many owners are unaware their feline friends can develop dental disease. Left untreated, conditions like gingivitis and tooth resorption can lead to tooth loss, infections, and systemic issues. Signs like bad breath, loose teeth, reduced appetite and drooling indicate your cat may have an underlying dental problem.

While professional cleanings by a vet provide the most thorough care, there are steps cat owners can take at home to improve their cat’s dental health. Brushing their teeth daily, feeding dental diets and treats, using dental wipes and water additives, and regular oral exams and grooming can all help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

By being vigilant and proactive with your cat’s oral hygiene routine, you can help prevent painful dental disease and keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy for years to come. A little time invested in dental care now can save you and your cat much trouble down the road.

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