Monday, January 19, 2015

Client question: How often should my cat have his teeth cleaned?

Question:  I clicked on your dental care link and thought it was very educational. At what age should a cat have it's teeth cleaned? And how often? Thanks.

Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital Thanks for a great question! 

Fractured canine tooth with exposure of the nerve and blood supply
A cat's dental health is dependent on many things: age, overall health, FeLV/FIV status and breed or hereditary characteristics. Many cats may need a dental cleaning as early as 4 years of age, if we are talking about preventing dental disease. Breeds such as Persians, who have short noses, still have the same number of teeth in their mouths as longer-nosed cats, and develop dental disease more rapidly due to tooth-crowding. Cats that are FeLV or FIV positive or have other diseases that decrease the effectiveness of their immune system may need dental cleanings more frequently because they are more susceptible to the bacteria that build up in the mouth. Cats that are adventurous explorers and fall and break a tooth, or those that chew on hard objects frequently may need more frequent care or emergency care. 

This Abyssinian kitten has all her adult teeth except her upper canines. X-rays show that she has no adult canines! When and if she loses her baby teeth, she will be missing two teeth.
Generally, we recommend that cats come in for a fluoride treatment around the age of 7 months, when all the adult teeth should have erupted. At this time, fluoride can be applied to the teeth (some cats will already have a little tartar buildup, which we will clean!) to strengthen the enamel - this application is most effective at strengthening before 18 months of age. After that, fluoride applications help prevent pain due to exposed dentin in inflamed mouths. We can also check to see if there are any abnormalities - extra teeth, missing teeth, retained baby teeth, teeth out of position, etc. that will cause problems later in life and require more care than the average cat.
This kitten has an upper tooth that is causing injury to his lower gum

We like to examine cats' mouths annually and their wellness exams to decide whether the cat will need a dental cleaning in the near future. Most cats will benefit from annual cleanings, but some cats may need cleanings every 6 months, and others may be able to go 2-3 years between cleanings. We try to balance the aggressiveness of our recommendations for treatment with the cost of treatment - since they require anesthesia for cleanings, we know that it may be daunting to consider the cost of a dental procedure. However, just like human dentists, veterinarians who advocate good oral health care for cats would prefer to perform a "dental prophylaxis" or cleaning, versus performing "dental surgery" and tooth extractions! We are sure that our patients would prefer it, too!


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