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Common Cat Dental Problems

Dental problems can cause a lot of pain for your cat and lead to other health problems. Today, our Poway veterinary team explains how to recognize dental health issues in your cat, the most common dental diseases in cats, and how to prevent or treat these issues.

Your Cat's Oral Health

Your cat's oral health is important to their overall health and wellbeing. Your cat uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, so when its oral structures are diseased or damaged, and stop functioning properly, your cat experiences pain, which will interfere with its ability to eat and communicate normally. 

Furthermore, the bacteria and infections that cause many oral health problems in cats will not remain in your cat's mouth. If left untreated, the infection and bacteria from your cat's mouth may spread throughout their body, causing damage to organs such as their kidneys, liver, and heart, as well as having a more serious impact on their overall health and longevity.

Cat Dental Disease Symptoms

Specific symptoms will differ between conditions, however, if you notice any of the following behaviors or symptoms, there is a chance that your cat is showing symptoms of a tooth problem.

Some of the most common symptoms of cat teeth problems can include:

  • Bad Breath (halitosis)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty with or slow eating
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Visible tartar
  • Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
  • Pawing at their teeth or mouth

If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, take him or her to your Poway veterinarian as soon as possible. The sooner your cat's dental disease is identified and treated, the better off he or she will be in the long run.

Common Dental Diseases in Cats

While there is a wide range of health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral structures, there are three particularly common conditions to watch out for. 

Periodontal Disease

Approximately 70% of all cats will develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3.

This disease is an infection caused by bacteria found in plaque—the soft film of bacteria and food debris that builds up on teeth over the course of the day. If your cat's plaque isn't regularly brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below their gum life.

Bacteria trapped beneath your cat's gum line and against their teeth irritate and erode the structures that support their teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can cause a serious infection of your cat's gums, loose and missing teeth, and organ damage as the bacteria spreads throughout his body.


Feline stomatitis is an incredibly painful inflammation and ulceration—opening of sores—of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.

Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition but any cat can develop stomatitis.

Cats with this condition are frequently in excruciating pain and have reduced appetites as a result. Because eating is so painful for cats in some cases, they will become malnourished. If your cat has a mild case of stomatitis, at-home care may suffice. However, in severe cases, surgical intervention is required.

Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption in cats describes the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a fairly common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats. 

When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, the body begins to break down the tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gum line, making it difficult to detect without a dental x-ray. If your cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows their food without chewing, this condition may be present.

Preventing Dental Issues in Cats

Routine brushing and cleaning of your cat's mouth is the most effective way to help prevent the development of dental problems with your cat's teeth. Plaque, if brushed or wiped away before it can cause damage or infection, has a much better chance of remaining healthy in your cat's teeth and gums.

To help keep your kitty's teeth in tip-top condition bring your pet in for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Dental appointments at Best Friends Veterinary Hospital are like taking your kitty for an appointment at the veterinary cat dentist.

To avoid developing oral health issues in the first place, start brushing your cat's teeth and gums while they are still a kitten. They will quickly adjust to the process. If your cat refuses to have its teeth cleaned, dental treats and foods are available to assist you in keeping your cat's teeth healthy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat showing signs of dental health problems? Contact our Poway vets today to book an examination for your feline friend.

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Best Friends Veterinary Hospital is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about the health of Poway companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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