Removing Tartar Doesn’t Always Help

When cats have inflamed gums, the tartar is often tapped off. But often this is not the main problem.

Cats don’t have tooth decay. As pure carnivores, they have no chewing surfaces that could be destroyed by bacteria. But you can still get a hole in your tooth. In contrast to us humans, however, the process of destruction of the tooth often begins in the root. A superficial treatment does not help here.

Stefan Grundmann is Head of the Dentistry Department at the Animal Hospital of the University of Zurich. Contrary to what one might think, he is not a big fan of brushing cats’ teeth. Because: “The available toothbrushes are much too big for a cat’s teeth.” You run the risk of injuring your pet’s gums. Added to this is the lack of tolerance in the animal. “Hardly any cat has its teeth cleaned regularly.” And since tartar forms within 48 hours, you can save yourself the occasional cleaning.

Rather, Grundmann advises an annual dental check – especially for older cats. This can be done directly at the veterinarian. For example, at the annual vaccination appointment. If this check is conspicuous or if you discover symptoms such as one-sided chewing, sudden recoil when eating, or increased plaque in the animal itself, you should think about how and where to have your animal treated.

Veterinary dentistry is not an independent specialty – in principle, every veterinarian may also carry out the dental treatment. But there are differences. It is advantageous if the veterinarian has attended appropriate advanced or advanced training courses. For example, the members of the Swiss Society of Veterinary Dentistry deal intensively with dentistry for small animals.

Dental X-ray is Important

According to Grundmann, the equipment is even more important than a corresponding additional title. Because without the appropriate technology, dental treatment for cats is simply insufficient. “X-rays of the skull only show insufficient detail of the teeth,” says the expert. That is why dental X-ray devices are important, with which one can display the individual teeth without superimpositions.

A large proportion of cats over the age of eight are affected by resorption damage to their teeth. The Resorptive Lesion (RL) starts in the root of the tooth and progresses unnoticed. “The hole in the crown of the tooth or on the neck of the tooth is the final stage,” says Grundmann. A possible side effect of RL is red gums growing into defects at the tooth neck. However, without the appropriate x-ray, it is easily mistaken for gingivitis, the most common cause of which is tartar. But the expert warns: “Here it is not enough to simply remove the tartar.”

The result: the actual problem persists and the next visit to the vet is due in no time. You can not prevent RL by regular tartar removal. “Almost nothing can be done prophylactically,” says Grundmann. Because the cause of the disease is unclear. “It’s a typical cat disease and has always been there, as historical finds show.”

Combine Interventions if Possible

In addition, the disease cannot be treated. The damaged tooth must be extracted, complete with the tooth root. “If parts of the root remain inside, it is painful for the animal and can cause further inflammation in the bone,” explains Grundmann. After all: Only when the disease is visible in the oral cavity is it also painful for the cat. “That’s why you don’t necessarily have to drive to the X-ray as a precaution,” explains the veterinarian.

But as soon as a dental problem is suspected, the teeth should be examined thoroughly and x-rayed, especially in older cats. Because starting with the X-ray, all treatments on the cat’s teeth take place under anesthesia. It, therefore, makes sense to bundle interventions and carry them out in one go. Because the most important thing is that the cat does not feel any pain after the treatment.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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