by Amanda L. Maus DVM
What are the signs of dental disease in cats?
- Red gums and discolored teeth
- Bad mouth odor
- Swelling of the area under an eye
- Running from food bowl after taking a bite
- Pawing at the mouth
- Decreased appetite and/or weight loss
- Hiding and/or lethargy
Dental disease can vary from mild tartar and gingivitis that can be remedied with a thorough dental cleaning and polishing under anesthesia, to severe disease that may require tooth extractions and medications. Sometimes the above symptoms can be caused by certain types of mouth cancer.
Why does my cat need anesthesia to have his or her teeth examined, cleaned, and treated?
As humans, we understand and comply with the requests of a dentist or hygienist for the open mouth positioning needed for dental x-rays, visual teeth inspections, probing, scaling, and polishing. These tasks are not possible to perform in an awake animal. Any movement of a pet while metal instruments are in the mouth could result in severe damage and pain to the patient. Superficial cleaning of only the surface of the tooth is just part of the regimen. Deep cleaning below the gumline to remove plaque and tartar is necessary but can cause temporary discomfort that is best accomplished under anesthesia.
Some procedures, such as complicated extractions and root canals are best performed by board certified veterinary dentists.
Dental disease is one of the common medical problems faced in a shelter environment, as is the case with PAWSitively CATS. The majority of the donations for veterinary care goes toward paying for professional cleanings and extractions to help improve the quality of life for the cats.