Don’t rely solely on vets to keep your cat’s teeth healthy.
We smile all the time. A smile can change a person’s day; a smile can be someone’s best feature; a smile can make you feel reassured and happy.
Our smile does so much for the well-being of others and our own. It’s very important, which is why we brush our teeth twice a day with a toothbrush. Regarding our own dental care, we are very proactive in preventing disease.
Regarding our cat’s dental care we are very reactive to disease.
It is because we do not see our cat’s teeth, disease can build up without us knowing. For most, the thought of using our hands to check our cat’s teeth is scary and that is why it is easy for dental disease to be swept under the rug – it’s almost out of sight out of mind. Not because we don’t care but because there is supposedly a lot of technical ability involved, therefore we’d rather leave it to the professionals to check our cats’ teeth either annually or every 6 months.
Let us explain why solely relying on our vet to check and clean our cats’ teeth will cause more issues in the long run. We’ll teach you how to check your cat’s teeth at home in a way where your cat won’t bite you, they’ll enjoy it and you won’t need any technical ability.
Before I continue I want to make it clear that I believe that feline dental hygiene carried out by the vet is very important but it forms part of a larger universe that surrounds your cat’s oral health.
To understand my point, we’ll look at how periodontitis occurs, what happens when your vet performs dental hygiene and what that larger universe of feline oral care looks like.
Periodontal disease is the progressive inflammation and destruction of the periodontal tissues i.e. the supporting structures of the tooth that holds it in its socket.
If left untreated periodontal disease will lead to tooth loss. Imagine a tooth in the centre of a beautiful spider’s web, periodontitis will start to break the strands of the web holding the tooth. One broken strand after another, we will become weaker and weaker until eventually, the tooth falls.
Periodontal disease is what causes your cat pain and tooth loss; it starts off as harmless bacteria, which may actually be beneficial to your cat’s oral health. However, when it is left alone, that is when it causes issues.
It’s very similar to the villain origin films you might have seen. Think of films like the Joker, Cruella, Maleficent, Venom or Star Wars. All the “villains” in these stories aren’t born a villain, they just go down a path which at first can be reversible. However, no one intervenes and as a result, they fall deep into the rabbit hole which sets them in their villainous ways.
The same goes with the bacteria in your cat’s mouth. If left alone it starts creating a film of bacterial and salivary origin around your cat’s teeth known as plaque. The plaque thickens creating more unfavourable anaerobic bacterial species, these anaerobic bacteria create by-products and toxins that inflame your cat’s gums and produce gingivitis.
At this point, you are able to restore your cat’s mouth to clinical health and prevent periodontal disease from ever occurring.
If left alone, the inflammation and the toxins start damaging the structures that hold the tooth in place and this is known as periodontitis AKA periodontal disease. This unfortunately isn’t reversible and can only be detected by a full dental exam done with general anaesthesia at the vet. If putting your cat under general anaesthesia scares you there is also a fantastic company known as Basepaws which has test kits that allow you to easily screen the risk of your cat suffering from periodontal disease at home – check them out.
The issue with solely relying on your vet to prevent your cat from suffering from dental disease is that your vet only sees your cat once or twice a year. So there is at least a 6-month gap where plaque is building up and damaging your cat’s periodontium.
Also when you see your vet they will carry out a conscious oral exam, your cat is stressed about being at the clinic and your vet knows it.
Now… if… now that’s a big if… if your cat lets your vet check their teeth, they are not going to be able to check them for too long, meaning their diagnosis is very tentative. This makes it difficult to treat the disease at the stage where it is still reversible. The quick diagnosis means that they will only react when the disease is obviously affecting your cat’s oral health and that is already too late.
Calculus or tartar is seen worldwide as a dental disease mascot. Whilst it is true that when plaque mineralises to form calculus it is plaque retentive, calculus is not the cause of gingivitis or periodontitis – plaque is.
Calculus can only be removed by your veterinarian. They will make sure your cat’s teeth are free of calculus and any other irritants. A dental clean carried out by the vet is a very important first step to the road to recovery and something you should do once a year.
If you solely rely on this as your cat’s solution to better teeth, you might as well throw your money down the drain as with time, you will be causing more problems. The disease will have more frequent bursts of activity and you will inevitably have to extract the teeth anyway.
This is because cats have to eat every day and therefore oral bacteria will constantly be present in their mouth and will not wait for you to be ready in order to start multiplying. Calculus in cats and in humans begins to form anywhere from 2 – 8 weeks. In cats with periodontal disease, their gums are in a state of chronic inflammation whereby the epithelial lining of the pocket is continually being inflamed and infected, inflamed and infected, inflamed and infected.
In order to end this cycle of inflammation and infection, the cause of infection needs to be removed.
Plaque is the cause of the infection. So you can’t effectively remove the cause of infection by removing plaque from your cat’s mouth once a year. You can’t do anything by doing it once a year.
Want to get physically fit? Oh, just go to the gym once a year and eat healthy once a year.
Do you want to pass your exams? Just study once a year.
Would you only brush your teeth once a year? No, it doesn’t work, here’s why.
The first phase of plaque deposition consists of the dental pellicle forming on the tooth surface, this occurs within hours of removing calculus. Hooooooouuuuuurrrrrs not years! That is why if you only rely on your vet to clean your cat’s teeth, they’re only going to be properly clean for a day or two, at most.
Most people don’t know that after a vet cleans the teeth and removes the calculus plaque will start building up faster than before!
Calculus actually attaches itself onto the tooth so when it is removed it leaves slightly rough edges on the surface of the teeth. The rough edges create a larger surface area, which means more bacteria can now attach themselves to the tooth and this enhances plaque accumulation.
You are essentially reducing the amount of time it takes before you need another clean done by your vet. If only your vet cleans your cat’s teeth, you will end up spending more money, you will never get rid of the infection, so the gingivae won’t be able to return to clinical health and tooth extraction will be inevitable.
Don’t ever forget that you are the most important defence to your cat’s health.
Treatment of gingivitis and periodontitis consists of two stages – periodontal therapy performed by the vet once a year, and the most important, part is the follow up the care done at home.
Plaque accumulates constantly, that is why you have to brush your cat’s teeth daily. Cat’s teeth and human teeth are anatomically identical, bacteria build up in the same way. So if you have doubts, go a year without brushing your teeth. You won’t… and it’s for the same reasons that you won’t that you shouldn’t let your cat go a day without brushing their teeth.
Most of us find out about the importance of brushing our cats’ teeth when our cat is an adult. The first thought that comes to mind is, “there’s no way Snowball is going to let me do that!” You’ll be right in thinking that. Traditional toothbrushing is not enjoyable for the cat and it is very hard for the owner to carry out.
For that reason, we have created a stress-free way to brush your cat’s teeth called the Dental Wand. The Dental Wand is a wand toy specifically designed to brush your cat’s teeth. It not only cleans their teeth, but it also creates positive associations for your cat with brushing meaning it increases your bond and makes it easier to use after every use.
Remember, you are the most important and the best line of defence for your cat. Only you can keep your cat safe and keep your cat happy. Whether it is brushing your cats’ teeth with the Dental Wand or with a toothbrush, make sure you start introducing brushing to your cat’s routine.
If you are using the Dental Wand, no technical ability will be needed, you can use it straight away and have positive experiences from the start.
If you use a toothbrush, your cat is not going to like it, so start slow. Start by just getting your cat used to the touching of their mouth with your finger; with time build up to putting some cat toothpaste on your finger and then eventually try the toothbrush.
Don’t rely solely on vets to keep your cat’s teeth healthy.