Are You Brushing Your Cat’s Teeth? Here’s Why You Should Be (And Why It Costs So Much)

Introduction

Oral health is extremely important for cats. Like humans, cats are susceptible to periodontal disease if dental care is neglected over time. Periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss, infections, and even damage to internal organs in severe cases. Professional dental cleanings are the best way to prevent periodontal disease by removing tartar below the gumline that brushing alone cannot reach. While expensive, cleanings done every 1-2 years are an investment in a cat’s long-term health and comfort. This article explores why professional dental cleanings are more costly for cats compared to other pets.

Professional Cleaning Costs

The average cost of a professional dental cleaning for cats ranges from $200 to $600. This is significantly more expensive than a routine teeth brushing or scaling that a human would receive. There are several reasons for the high price tag:

Anesthesia Required

One of the biggest reasons professional dental cleanings for cats are expensive is that anesthesia is required for the procedure. Cats cannot be reasonably expected to remain calm and cooperative while having their teeth scraped, probed, and cleaned above and below the gumline. Thus, anesthesia is necessary both for proper cleaning and for the safety of the cat and veterinary staff.

General anesthesia allows the veterinary team to fully examine the teeth, gums, and oral cavity. Cats’ small mouths and sharp teeth make it difficult to thoroughly inspect and clean the teeth while the cat is awake. Anesthesia ensures the safety of the cat by preventing pain, discomfort or gagging during the cleaning. It also minimizes stress for the cat from being handled and having oral exam instruments inserted in their mouth.

While anesthesia does add significantly to the cost, it is a mandatory component of a professional dental cleaning. The risks of anesthesia are minimized by pre-anesthetic bloodwork and monitoring throughout the procedure. However, the benefits of a proper cleaning under anesthesia far outweigh the costs (Source). Regular dental cleanings under anesthesia are crucial for cats’ long-term oral health.

Specialized Equipment

Vet offices require specialized tools and equipment to properly clean cats’ teeth (https://www.pawlicy.com/blog/cat-dental-cleaning-cost/). Unlike human dental cleanings, cat dental cleanings can’t be performed with just a regular toothbrush. Vets use ultrasonic scalers, polishers, and other veterinary-specific instruments to scrape off tartar above and below the gumline. The right tools allow vets to thoroughly clean all surfaces of cats’ teeth safely and efficiently. Cats’ small mouths and sharp teeth also necessitate specialized feline dental equipment. The cost of purchasing and maintaining this professional gear contributes to the price of cat dental cleanings.

Time and Expertise

Veterinary dental cleanings are a time-consuming process that require expertise to be done properly. The actual teeth cleaning itself may only take a few minutes, but the entire procedure can last 1-2 hours or more depending on the extent of tartar buildup and other factors.

The veterinary team must sedate or anesthetize the cat, monitor vital signs, take radiographs if needed, scale and polish each tooth by hand, and more. Every cat’s mouth is unique, so the vet must assess the situation and use their training to determine the right approach.

Rushing through cleanings or having staff without proper dental training can lead to missed plaque, damaged teeth and gums, and other issues. So taking the necessary time and having an experienced vet perform the cleaning is key to getting the best results for a cat’s oral health.

While the cost reflects the time investment, a proper dental cleaning is well worth it to reduce bacteria, inflammation, and teeth loss over the long run. Going to a trusted vet who routinely performs cleanings can give cat owners confidence that the procedure will be done thoroughly and safely.

Pre-Op Exam and Bloodwork

Before anesthesia and dental procedures, veterinarians will perform a full physical exam and run pre-operative blood tests on the cat (source: Cat Dental Cleaning $100). These tests check the overall health of the cat and ensure the kidneys, liver, and other organs are functioning properly. Blood tests help vets determine any underlying issues that could make anesthesia risky for that individual cat. The pre-op workup allows vets to create the safest anesthesia protocol for each feline patient.

Aftercare

After a professional dental cleaning, cats require some special care as they recover from anesthesia and the cleaning procedure. It’s important to monitor your cat closely in the hours following the cleaning to ensure proper recovery.

Your vet will likely want your cat to remain at the clinic for a few hours after the procedure so they can monitor vital signs as the anesthesia wears off. Cats may experience some nausea and vomiting immediately after waking up. The vet will make sure your cat is stable before sending them home.

Once home, keep your cat in a comfortable, warm space indoors where you can observe them. Cats should not go outside unattended after anesthesia as they may still be disoriented or unsteady. Watch for signs of continued nausea, bleeding from the mouth, swelling or discharge around the teeth and gums.

Your cat may be prescribed pain medication to ease discomfort in the days following the cleaning. Be sure to give all medications as directed. Appetite may be decreased for the first 12-24 hours after dental cleaning, but you should encourage eating and drinking to help recovery.

A follow-up vet visit may be scheduled to check healing, remove any sutures, and examine the teeth and gums post-procedure. Full recovery takes about 1 week, during which you should brush lightly if possible and follow any other aftercare instructions from your vet.

Medications

Cats may require medication before and after a professional dental cleaning. Antibiotics help prevent infection from bacteria released during the cleaning. Common antibiotics prescribed include amoxicillin, clavamox, clindamycin, and doxycycline. Pain medications like buprenorphine or meloxicam treat discomfort and promote healing after the procedure. Sedatives like gabapentin may also be given the night before and morning of the cleaning to reduce anxiety and stress.

Medications add to the overall cost of a dental cleaning but are an important part of the treatment. Antibiotics and pain relievers help cats recover comfortably and prevent complications. Be sure to give all medications as directed by your veterinarian.

Ongoing Oral Health

Regular teeth cleanings by a veterinarian are an important part of maintaining cats’ health and wellbeing. The American Animal Hospital Association recommends professional dental cleanings for cats every 6-12 months (Chewy). This frequent cleaning schedule is necessary because cats are susceptible to rapid buildup of plaque and tartar on their teeth. Plaque can harden into tartar in as little as 36 hours. This tartar buildup leads to inflammation and bacterial infection in the mouth called periodontal disease.

Periodontal disease is extremely common in cats, with some studies estimating 70% of cats over age 3 have some degree of dental disease (CC Animal Clinic). Left untreated, periodontal disease causes tooth decay, abscesses, and tooth loss. It can also spread systemic infection throughout the cat’s body. Regular professional cleanings are the best way to combat periodontal disease and maintain dental health.

Conclusion

Cat dental cleanings are expensive procedures, but they are absolutely vital for feline health. The costs come from the amount of time, expertise, equipment, and care required to properly clean teeth and prevent further dental disease. While the upfront cost may seem high, it helps avoid much greater expenses down the road if dental problems go untreated. Cleanings remove plaque and tartar to protect teeth and gums, while a thorough oral exam spots any underlying issues. Though ongoing home care helps, most cats eventually need professional cleaning. For the wellbeing of your feline companion, the investment is well worth it!

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