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Cat Dental Care - Is My Cat Healthy?

Cat Dental Care - Is My Cat Healthy?
by Dr Caity Venniker

Read time: 5 min

Cat teeth problems

Cat teeth problems are common. Around 80% of cats over 2 years old need care for some kind of dental issue. So it’s important to make your cat say “Aah” once in a while to make sure their teeth and gums are looking healthy.

How do I check my cat’s mouth?

To check out your cat’s teeth, you need to be able to fully open their mouth. They won’t like this. But it’s necessary.

To examine the mouth properly, you need to be able to fully open the mouth so that you can see the tongue, palate, gums and teeth. The easiest way to do this is by gently tilting your cat's head upwards and then putting slight pressure on the bottom teeth to open the jaw. For a clear explanation of this, check out our blog on How To Pill A Cat.

Most cats can learn to have their mouths examined at home, as long as you’re consistent and take your time (and come armed with lots of treats).

How many teeth do kittens have?

Just like human children, cats lose their first set of teeth and grow a new set. They lose the first set when they’re around 6 months old, and their adult teeth grow in. They have 26 of these deciduous teeth. Adult cats have 30 permanent teeth. You might find their old teeth around the house, but usually, they fall out while they’re eating, and they just swallow them with their food.

When your kitten’s baby teeth are in the process of falling out, you might notice that they have pretty bad breath, and they might want to chew on things to ease the discomfort. This is totally normal (growing a new set of teeth can be uncomfortable). Just make sure they don’t chew on anything that can cause them harm.

Symptoms of cat teeth problems and dental disease

White cat yawning and showing the inside of its mouth

It’s important to keep on top of your cat’s oral hygiene so a small problem doesn’t develop into something worse.

These are some symptoms to look out for that might indicate that your cat has dental disease (or the beginning of it):

  • Less grooming – leading to a dirty, dull, or lumpy coat

  • Bad breath

  • Drooling

  • Discomfort when eating – dropping food or avoiding the food bowl altogether

  • Pawing at their mouth

  • Bleeding gums

  • Reduced appetite

  • Weight loss

What is periodontal disease?

Periodontal disease is actually an umbrella term for multiple different diseases to do with the teeth. It can include issues like gingivitis and periodontitis -- advanced gum disease, usually seen in older cats. And stomatitis, an inflammation of the oral cavity.

What is gingivitis?

Gingivitis is an inflammation of the bit of gum that surrounds a tooth due to plaque buildup. Even humans can get gingivitis. It's super common in cats but is progressive, so gets worse if you ignore it. But if it’s caught early won’t do any lasting damage.

Visiting the vet for check-ups

If your cat is showing any signs of being uncomfortable while eating, pawing at their mouth, or drooling, it’s best to take them to the vet.

If you take your cat for regular check-ups – good for you. Your cat’s health is important. Your vet will probably check their teeth and gums at these usual check-ups, which can help to catch dental problems early. Follow their advice to keep your cat’s pearly whites in the best condition.

Will my cat need to have a tooth out?

This depends on the condition of their mouth and the disease they have. Sometimes better oral hygiene is the only thing needed to fix the problem. But in some cases, if there’s a lot of tooth decay, they might need to have the tooth out.

Preventing gum/dental disease in cats

Regular brushing is the best way to protect your cat from dental disease. Luckily for you, we’ve also put together a blog on how to brush your cat’s teeth, full of handy tips and advice.

If you suspect that your cat has developed dental disease, it's best to take them for a check-up at the vet. They’ll examine your cat with particular attention to the mouth and may perform X-rays and blood tests. If needed, they’ll advise getting a dental done. This involves giving your cat an anaesthetic so that the teeth can be properly scaled and cleaned.

Sometimes, in severe cases, teeth may need to be extracted. Cats that have had teeth removed tend to do much better than you might think. They can eat normally, particularly softer foods like KatKin rather than kibble, and they’re often much more comfortable because the pain has been relieved.

Dental disease in cats can cause severe pain and discomfort, seriously impacting your cat’s quality of life. In severe cases, it can cause cats to stop eating, which obviously has its own consequences. Fortunately, checking your cat's mouth regularly can help you to prevent and manage the progression of disease.

How to keep your cat's teeth clean

Brushing their teeth is the best way to ward off any dental issues. You can find cat toothpaste and brushes at most good pet shops. These toothpastes are usually pretty tasty, so you might not have to worry about them struggling too much. But it’s still best to start brushing their teeth as young as possible to prevent any fights later.

Some dental pastes don’t need you to brush at all, which is ideal for cats who don’t have the patience for brushing. Instead, they rely on enzymes to help break down plaque and tartar and freshen your cat’s breath.

Tips on brushing your cat's teeth

Ask your vet to show you how to brush your cat’s teeth correctly.

Buy special toothpaste for your cat – never use human toothpaste.

Begin by putting the toothpaste on your finger and offering it to them to lick. They’re usually pretty tasty.

Make sure you have a toothbrush suitable for their teeth too.

Choose a time of day that you can stick to in order to make teeth brushing part of their routine.

Stay calm and comfortable – they probably won’t like it very much.

The first step will just be getting them used to the process. Gently pull back your cat’s lips and touch their teeth with the toothbrush before pulling away and praising them. Repeat this daily for several days. Only proceed when they’re really comfortable.

To brush your cat’s teeth, apply the bristles to the teeth at a 45-degree angle, reaching both the tooth surface and just beneath the gum line.

Make sure you get both sides of each tooth!

When you’re done, give your cat lots of praise and play with them (if they haven’t run off) as a reward.

What should I feed my cat to avoid dental issues?

The best way to avoid dental issues is to brush their teeth regularly, but you can help by feeding them a good diet of fresh, 100% human-quality meat cat food. “But doesn’t dry food clean their teeth for them?” NO! The only thing that cleans your cat's teeth is you. Feed them fresh cat food from KatKin to keep them feeling happy and healthy.


Cornell University. (2017). Feline dental disease. Cornell Feline Health Center. Retrieved October 30, 2021, from:

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