How to Keep Cats’ Teeth Clean

Updated: 12/18/20232-4 minutes
Clean Cats’ Teeth

The best way to keep your cat’s teeth clean is to brush their teeth regularly. Since that’s not always feasible, dental cat treats, special food, chew toys and other alternatives can help. 

Maintaining your cat’s dental health is important. Think of their oral health as the gateway to their total body health. Dental problems can be painful and can lead to other illnesses when left untreated.  

That’s why it’s important to introduce a dental routine early and stick with it. Your cat may not like it at first, but with plenty of practice and positive reinforcement, they’ll likely learn to accept it. Plus, it offers another opportunity to bond with your cat.  

How to Clean Cat Teeth

The best way to clean your cat’s teeth is through brushing. Ask your veterinarian to show you how to do this and for recommendations on cat toothbrushes and toothpaste.  

How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth

Once you have a cat toothbrush and toothpaste, it’s time to get your cat used to the idea. Choose a time you can stick to each day, so it becomes a natural part of their daily routine. A time when you’re both relaxed and comfortable is best. 

  • Start by putting a dab of cat toothpaste on your finger and offering it to them to lick. Do this for a few days so they get used to the flavor and texture.  
  • Once they’ve had a few days to try the toothpaste by itself, it’s time to introduce the brush.  
  • Keep your cat’s back to you when you start, as they will try to back away.  
  • Gently pull back your cat’s lips and just touch their teeth with the toothbrush. Then stop and offer a reward. Repeat for several days until they’re comfortable.  
  • Once your cat is comfortable, you can start brushing. Apply the bristles to the teeth and try to brush the tooth surface to slightly below the gumline while not brushing the gums directly. 

Remember to keep brushing sessions short and positive by taking breaks and offering rewards.  

Alternatives & Supplements to Brushing a Cat’s Teeth

Although brushing is ideal for caring for your cat’s teeth, there are things you can do instead or in addition to brushing. Your veterinarian can help you determine which options are best for your cat. These options include:  

  • Dental cat treats, which help remove plaque and freshen breath 
  • Dental chew toys 
  • Oral gel 

Most veterinarians also offer teeth cleaning services. It’s a good idea to schedule a cleaning and checkup before you start a new dental care routine to ensure your cat doesn’t have gingivitis or gum disease.  

Because more than half the tooth is below the gum line, veterinarians put animals under anesthesia to perform dental cleanings. Groomers and others offering dental cleanings do not use anesthesia and, therefore, cannot perform a thorough cleaning. 

Importance of Cat Dental Health

Cats’ teeth aren’t too different from our own. Like ours, their teeth accumulate plaque, and if not removed, it can turn into tartar. Over time, this can lead to gingivitis, periodontal (gum) disease and even tooth loss. 

Poor cat dental health can also result in heart problems, kidney issues and more, because their oral and overall health are closely linked.  

The following symptoms could be a sign of dental disease:  

  • Bad breath 
  • Red, inflamed gums 
  • Yellow or brown tartar on teeth 
  • Drooling 
  • Chewing on one side of the mouth 
  • Decreased appetite and weight loss 

Any of the above symptoms warrant a trip to your veterinarian. They’ll do a full examination to determine if dental disease is the cause and can recommend adjustments to your cat’s dental health routine to improve their oral health. 

Unfortunately, even with diligent brushing and dental care, about 20 to 60 percent of cats will experience tooth resorption. This is a condition where the dentin erodes and can result in the loss of one or more teeth. Researchers don’t fully understand the cause yet but talk with your veterinarian about any concerns regarding your cat’s dental health. 

To learn more from our experts about cat dental health, grooming and similar topics, visit our Pet Expertise page.  

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