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Common Cat Dental Problems

When cats are suffering from oral health issues they can be in a great deal of pain. These problems can also result in other health conditions. In this post, our San Mateo vets explain how you can recognize common dental health problems in cats and how you can prevent them.

Oral Health In Cats

Maintaining good oral health is crucial for your cat's overall well-being. Their mouth, teeth, and gums play a vital role in eating and communication. When these oral structures are compromised, diseased, or not functioning properly, it can cause pain and disrupt their ability to eat and vocalize normally.

Moreover, the bacteria and infections responsible for many oral health problems in cats can spread beyond the mouth. If left untreated, these infections and bacteria can circulate throughout the body, potentially affecting organs like the kidneys, liver, and heart. This can have serious implications for your cat's overall health and lifespan.

Signs of Cat Dental Problems

While the specific symptoms will differ between conditions,  if you notice your kitty exhibiting any of the following behaviors or symptoms, they may be suffering from a dental disease.

Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in cats can include:

  • Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
  • Bad Breath (halitosis)
  • Visible tartar
  • Missing or loose teeth
  • Pawing at their teeth or mouth
  • Excessive drooling
  • Difficulty with or slow eating
  • Weight loss

If you see your cat displaying any of the signs detailed above they could be suffering from a dental health condition, and you should take them to your San Mateo vet as quickly as possible for an examination. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed and treated the better for your cat's recovery and long-term health.

Dental Diseases That Are Common In Cats

While there are various dental health issues that can affect a cat's teeth, gums, and other oral structures, there are three relatively common conditions you need to be aware of.

Periodontal Disease

By the time cats reach the age of 3, around 70% of them will develop some form of periodontal disease.

This condition is caused by bacterial infection originating from plaque, a soft film of bacteria and food particles that accumulates on teeth throughout the day. If not regularly brushed or cleaned, plaque hardens into tartar, both above and below the gum line.

When bacteria becomes trapped below the gum line and near the teeth, it starts to irritate and deteriorate the supporting structures of your cat's teeth. If left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to severe gum infections, tooth loss, and even organ damage as the bacteria spreads throughout your pet's body.


Feline stomatitis is a very painful inflammation and ulceration—opening of sores—of your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue.

Persians and Himalayans are predisposed to developing this condition but any cat can develop stomatitis.

Cats with this condition often suffer from extreme pain, and as a result, have reduced appetites. In some cases, cats will become malnourished because it is so painful for them to eat. If your cat develops a mild case, at-home care might be enough to treat their stomatitis. But severe cases require surgical intervention.

Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption is a common problem in cats, with around three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats being affected by it.

In this condition, a cat's teeth gradually undergo destruction, leading to the loosening and painful breakdown of the hard outer layer. Since this damage occurs below the gum line, it can be difficult to identify without a dental X-ray.

However, if you notice that your cat has started preferring soft foods or swallowing their food without chewing, it could be a sign of tooth resorption.

Preventing Cat Dental Problems

Regularly brushing your cat's teeth and maintaining good oral hygiene is an effective way to prevent dental issues. By routinely brushing or wiping away plaque from your cat's teeth and gums, you can significantly improve their chances of maintaining healthy oral health. This proactive approach helps prevent damage and infection caused by plaque buildup.

To help keep your kitty's teeth in tip-top condition bring your pet in for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. When you bring your cat to South Hillsdale Animal Hospital for a dental appointment it's like taking them to a dentist for a checkup.

To prevent oral health issues from developing in the first place, you should begin cleaning your cat's teeth and gums while they are still a kitten and they should be able to quickly adjust to the process. If your cat won't allow you to clean their teeth, dental treats and foods are also available to help you keep your cat's teeth healthy.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our San Mateo vets immedietely if your kitty is showing signs of having a dental problem.

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At South Hillsdale Animal Hospital, our experienced vets are passionate about the health of San Mateo companion animals. Get in touch today to learn more about our services and becoming a new client with us.

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