Brushing your cat’s teeth does not have to be an adventure. As with most adventures with pets, all it takes is some patience and planning. Proper dental care can keep your cat’s gums and teeth healthy as well as other body systems as well including the kidneys and valve systems. Brushing your cat’s teeth several times a week is recommended if daily cleanings are not permitted by your cat. Every other day cleanings will keep plaque away before it has time to build up. Begin this regimen at an early age for best results in the future.
First, choose a proper time and place. Choose a quiet place and begin at a time when you and your cat are both relaxed. The first few times just massage her neck and mouth area, and then move to her cheeks and gums. Progress on to using poultry flavored toothpaste or a baking soda and tuna water mixture on your finger. Toothpastes are available in a variety of pet-friendly flavors from your local pet or grocery store including seafood, malt, and chicken. Various veterinary dentists have recommended those toothpastes that contain chlorhexidine or hexametaphosphate. The best pet toothpaste would contain both. Never use human toothpaste as it causes kitty tummy upset.
Brush one or two teeth at a time and if your cat allows, do more. Once your pet has become accustomed to the process, introduce the smallest available toothbrush or dental sponge. The bristles should be held at a 45 degree angle and be moved in an oval motion. If the cat refuses to accept the toothbrush, dental sponge, or finger brush, try using a piece of gauze wrapped around your finger with toothpaste on it. Cotton swabs, gauze pads, or soft cloths dipped in saline are also options if your cat does not take to poultry paste. Using an oval circular motion, brush the gum line and a few teeth at a time. Try to get to the rear teeth where large amounts of plaque and tartar tend to build up.
Stop before your cat begins to fuss or you may never be able to clean your pet’s teeth at home. Try to brush 30 seconds on each side. Go slowly and gently and don’t make it a torturous affair for your cat. Be sure to reward your cat with a treat and praise for a job well done. Don’t beat yourself up if your progress is not what you expected. Getting a little toothpaste on your cat’s teeth and gums is better than none at all. If your cat experiences pain, she may have a deeper problem such as an infected, broken tooth or inflamed gums. Consult your veterinarian so your pet can be under anesthesia when having a deeper cleaning.
Dental diets may also be a step toward good pet dental hygiene. Some foods eliminate plaque buildup and some are formulated to prevent plaque. Dry food may be better than canned food for your cat’s teeth. Chew toys that are softer than your cat’s teeth may help keep your cat’s teeth clean and promote circulation in her gums.
AAHA encourages pet owners to regularly examine their pet’s teeth for signs of periodontal disease, such as brownish colored teeth; swollen, red, or bleeding gums; persistent bad breath; loose teeth or loss of teeth; pus between the gums and teeth; broken teeth and any unusual growth in the mouth. Reluctance to eat, play with chew toys, or drink cold water are warning signs of periodontal or gum disease. Consult your veterinarian if you notice any of these signs in your pet.