Dear Ms. Kitty,
My cat, Misha, is a normally healthy, 9-year old Russian Blue, but lately she isn’t eating well, her breath smells awful and she drools on and off. I’m convinced that she needs to have her teeth looked at, but I’m afraid of what the exam will show. Besides I personally hate going to the dentist! So just the thought of taking her for an exam makes me feel uncomfortable for her and me. What can I do to help my cat get back on track?
Distraught about Dentistry

Check my mouth?Dear Distraught,
I completely understand your fear of dentists! Did you know that more than 50% of the U.S. population shares that same fear? But just like we need to make sure to take care of our teeth, we need to take care of our cats 30 little teeth as well – starting from the time they are a kitten. Dental disease is one of the most common health issues for cats and one of the most overlooked. Unless you are providing Misha with a regular form of dental care or preventative care, you are neglecting an important factor in her overall health.

The smell that you are noticing is likely being caused by tartar, plaque and bacteria build up which leads to tooth decay and gum infections like gingivitis. In severe cases a cat could also develop a sinus infection. According to most veterinarians, cats who eat a diet of primarily wet food are at much greater risk for dental issues that those eating crunchy dry kibble food. You may also have noticed that in addition to the frequent drooling, she is chewing on one side of her mouth more than the other and that she is spitting up small pieces of partially chewed kibble.

All that being said, you will need to make an appointment to take Misha into your veterinarian’s office where he will complete an oral exam and talk to you about a treatment plan.

The first course of action and the least invasive will be a dental ‘prophy’ which means teeth cleaning and polishing. This should be done on an annual basis depending on your cat’s needs. Your doctor may also recommend a veterinarian-approved treat that can help decrease the amount of plaque and tartar build-up on her teeth. A commonly known type of this treat is called C.E.T. Oral Hygiene Chews. These chews are made of a leather-like material with a natural antiseptic plus an abrasive texture that releases enzymes in the cat’s mouth helping to break down the plaque and tartar on their teeth and keep the mouth healthier.

If the dental disease is more progressive, which it sounds like it may be, it will require Misha to be placed under general anesthesia for advanced treatment. The main reason Misha will need an anesthetic is that the doctor will need to probe down under her gum line in order to clean where the real dental disease is. He will want to do some blood work beforehand and possibly a urinalysis to ensure that your cat is otherwise healthy. If the doctor needs to remove any teeth due to decay, he will send you home with specific after-care instructions and typically an antibiotic medication to administer for several days to prevent infection during healing.

The best ways to prevent future dental issues will be with a proper diet and preventative care. If Misha doesn’t care for dry kibble food, try softening it a bit with some hot water or heated chicken broth. And aim to cut back to giving her wet food as a treat only. You may also want to try ‘brushing’ your cats teeth by using a piece of soft gauze wrapped around your finger with tuna-flavored toothpaste made especially for cats. There are also specially-formulated mouthwashes or rinses for cats that are squirted into their mouths, which could be easier to use then toothpaste, and all-natural treatments that you can add to her drinking water.

I hope that Misha is feeling better and back to her normal self as soon as possible.
— Ms. Kitty