Cleaning Cat Teeth: A Guide to Dental Care for Cats

Lisa Selvaggio
by Lisa Selvaggio
Cats need pearly whites, too. Here’s what you need to know about healthy cat teeth.

Just as you brush your teeth every day in order to ensure your teeth and gums will be healthy and you will not have to deal with oral infections and cavities, you need to take steps each day to be certain your cat’s mouth is healthy as well. From brushes and toothpaste to treats and check-ups, below is a short guide to dental care for felines that will help you prevent tooth decay, painful extractions, and gum disease that can lead to infections that spread throughout your cat’s body, putting his entire health in jeopardy. Here’s how to keep those cat teeth clean and healthy!

Understanding Feline Gum Disease

Plaque, which is a transparent and sticky fluid filled with bacteria, eats away at gum tissue and, when not removed in time, will lead to the formation of a harder substance, known as tartar. Plaque is a natural byproduct of eating, but it can be removed with regular brushing sessions and cleanings at your vet’s office. Tartar, which is also referred to as calculus, on the other hand, further irritates gum tissue and results in redness, swelling, and eventually gingivitis. In order to get rid of tartar, your vet will have to step in and clean cat teeth and gums. Therefore, to protect your kitty’s oral health, daily brushing is the first step.

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Gingivitis can turn into periodontitis, which is a serious condition that leads to infection, inflammation, and loose teeth. If your cat has very foul breath, this could be a sign that he is suffering from periodontal disease. And, if not taken care of, oral infections that are chronic may cause bacteria to spread to other organs.

The Food You Feed Your Cat

The commercial cat food your kitty consumes does not do very much to keep the gums strong and the teeth clean. While some experts feel that kibble provides a sort of “brushing” action, others completely disagree. And if you are feeding wet food or a homemade diet, the food is also soft. This is in contrast to how cats eat in the wild, when they take down prey and chew on fur, feathers, tough tissue and muscle, and bones, which all help to clean the teeth naturally.

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Supporters of feeding cats a raw diet state that the raw meat, as well as the right raw bones, will provide your cat with the chewing action required to keep the mouth healthy. But if you do not wish to feed a raw diet to your cat or provide him with raw (uncooked) bones to chew on, there are other steps you can take.


Daily brushing with an enzymatic feline-specific toothpaste is a great way to keep cat teeth healthy. Again, home care does not replace regular visits for checkups and cleanings at your vet’s office, but it is definitely important. An enzymatic toothpaste that does not contain fluoride will not only be safe for your kitty but will also work without the need for excessive brushing, which most cats will not tolerate. Instead, just getting the toothpaste onto the teeth and gums daily will help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar.

For cats, you can use a small piece of gauze wrapped around your finger or a cat-specific soft-bristled brush. Start brushing from as young as possible, if you can, to get your cat used to this process.

Cat Teeth Cleaning Treats

In addition to brushing, you can also provide your cat with treats that are specifically designed for cleaning teeth. Just check the ingredients to make sure the treats are natural and do not contain any meat byproducts or artificial preservatives, colors, and flavors. Enzymatic treats that require chewing are a good option.

Taking care of your cat’s oral health today can save you a lot of money in vet bills in the future. Home care, combined with regular veterinary checkups, is the best way to ensure your cat’s teeth and gums will be healthy.

Lisa Selvaggio
Lisa Selvaggio

Lisa Selvaggio is a freelance writer and editor, and our resident cats-pert, with certifications in pet nutrition and pet first aid. She enjoys producing content that helps people understand animals better so they can give their pets a safe and happy home.

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