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Common Cat Dental Problems

Dental problems can arise in cats if their teeth and oral health are not given enough attention. In this post, our Denver vets discuss some common dental problems we see in cats, including the causes, signs, treatment options, and how they can be prevented.

Feline Oral Health

Your cat's oral health is also important for their overall health and well-being as poor oral hygiene can cause several issues not just in the mouth. Since your cat uses their mouth, teeth, and gums to eat and vocalize, oral problems can severely impact your cat's day-to-day life making it difficult for them to eat and communicate.

Thankfully, the most common forms of dental diseases in cats are preventable or treatable with efficient dental care and maintenance. Your cat needs to have yearly physical examinations with a veterinarian to ensure their oral health is getting the attention it needs.

It’s equally important for your cat to have routine professional dental cleanings and oral examinations. These will be performed under general anesthesia or heavy sedation so your cat doesn't experience any pain or discomfort. This also makes sure they don't move around or get defensive during treatment. These procedures include dental X-rays that allow your vet to detect hidden dental disease early and begin treatment promptly.

Cat Dental Disease Symptoms

Depending on your cat's dental disease or condition, the signs and symptoms you see may vary. However, do your best to keep an eye out for any of the signs below, and consult with your vet if you see even one present in your cat. Some of the most common symptoms of dental disease in cats can include:

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

Common Dental Problems in Cats

While there is a wide range of health issues that can affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral structures, there are three particularly common conditions to watch out for.

Periodontal Disease (Periodontitis)

  • Periodontitis, or periodontal disease, is caused by the progression of untreated plaque, tartar, and gingivitis. Periodontitis cannot be reversed once it has progressed. With periodontitis, the tissue damage is much more severe and affects the gums, the ligaments that attach the tooth to the gums, and the underlying bone. In some cats, periodontal disease can develop as early as when they are one year old. This irreversible damage results in loss of tooth support and, in turn, loss of the tooth as well.

Tooth Resorption

  • Tooth resorption in cats describes the gradual destruction of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a fairly common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats. When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, their body begins to break down their tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gum line so it can be challenging to detect without a dental X-ray. However, if your cat suddenly develops a preference for soft foods or swallows their food without chewing, they may be suffering from this condition.


  • Feline stomatitis is an incredibly 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 suffering from this condition are often in extreme pain and have reduced appetites because of that. 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. However, severe cases require surgical intervention.

Prevention of Dental Disease in Cats

The best way to prevent any dental issue in your cat is to brush their teeth as often as you can. Your cat's teeth and gums will have a much better chance of remaining healthy if plaque is brushed off before it can cause any damage.

While brushing your cat's teeth daily or even a few times a week may seem like a stretch, it can become a normal and stress-free part of your cat's daily routine if you start the process at a young age. If your cat won't tolerate you cleaning their teeth, dental treats and foods can also do a great job in removing plaque and tartar buildup.

To keep your kitty's teeth in tip-top condition, take your pet for a professional dental examination and cleaning once a year. Taking your kitty for a dental appointment is like taking your cat for a routine dentist appointment and will include a thorough examination of your cat's teeth as well as a deep cleaning and possibly even X-rays.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding people or pets. Always follow your doctor's advice regarding asthma or other allergy symptoms.

Is your cat showing signs of dental disease or other oral issues? Contact our Denver vets to schedule your companion an examination today.

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