How Important is Home Dental Care?

Author: Richard Lester, DVM

January 25, 2011

How many of you think you could get your cat to let you brush your teeth? Beyond that, how many of you think your cat would let you brush their teeth with an electric toothbrush? Because that's exactly what Cats Exclusive client, Shelley, has done. Pictured here with her cat Sluggo, Shelley has put in the time and effort to ensure that her cats have the very best home dental care she can provide.

Several years back, Shelley had a cat with a heart condition and an abscessed tooth. A dental procedure was required, but it was rough and the recovery was difficult. She decided that she didn't want to go through that again and so she began a home care routine. Just as the tips on our website recommend, she started slow, making sure to acclimate her little ones to every step along the way.

It's a process of adjustment and getting used to a nightly routine, which she says they usually did within a week. She started with a child's electric toothbrush and then stepped up to a Braun Oral B electric. In that step, since brushing was already routine, it was important to introduce the sound first, and then the different feelings of the brush. As Shelley says, "The trick seems to be using lots of praise, and the right shaped toothbrush... The small, round brush head, about the diameter of your little finger, is a more comfortable fit in the cat's mouth." Shelley has gone through this with 5 cats, varying in age from 4 to 16 years, and as a result of her extensive home care routine, they have almost no tartar. This preventative care has made such a huge difference for them and professional dental cleanings have been limited for the group as a whole which, in turn, reduces their exposure to the anesthesia required for those more extensive procedures. Brushing doesn't prevent resorptive lesions but does help reduce or prevent plaque, tartar, and the resulting gingivitis.

Certainly, not all cats would tolerate brushing in such a way. For those who won't, there are other options for dental care at home. Virbac makes a rinse that can be squirted into the mouth, or, for those whose cats are chewers, a dental treat that is coated with an enzymatic cleaner that helps to reduce plaque and loosen tartar. But brushing is best. For those who would like to give it a try check out our Dental Care page which has photos of different stages of dental disease, tips on how to help your cat adjust to home dental care, and a link to a video on brushing your cat's teeth.