A standard dental “scale and polish” involves the removal of tartar (the brown, stony material) and plaque (the soft, pasty material) from the tooth crown and sulcus area under the gum line. An ultrasonic scale is used to clean these areas – the scaler tip vibrates at 30,000 times per second and is accompanied with a fine spray of water which flushes, cools and lubricates the whole process. The teeth are then polished with a mildly abrasive fluoride paste – this smooths the surface of the tooth to prevent rapid reattachment of plaque. Finally the crown and sulcus area are flushed to remove any remaining debris and residual paste. If teeth require extraction then we use a selection of sterile dental instruments and a high speed dental drill. Often extraction sites are closed using fine dissolving stitches to aid healing and post-dental comfort.
Cats suffer a unique problem in the animal world, called “Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions” (FORL’s), more often known as ‘neck lesions’ or “resorptive lesions”. A hole appears in the tooth, often at the gum line (or neck of the tooth, hence the term “neck lesion”). This hole progressively gets larger and deeper, penetrating the dentine and pulp – this is a painful condition. Treatment involves extraction of all affected teeth and dental xrays are often used to assess the tooth roots and check for hidden lesions in neighbouring teeth.
All cats undergoing a dental procedure have their teeth and gums charted – this involves individual examination of each tooth, probing of the gingival sulcus and recording the amount of tartar, gingivitis and any other pathology present. If indicated, dental xrays are taken to assess disease below the gum line – this can help decide whether a tooth should be extracted or not.
All the above dental treatment is performed under general anaesthetic in our dedicated dental theatre.
Preventative Dental Care for Cats
Over 85% of cats over the age of three years have irreversible dental disease – this is called periodontal disease.
The main enemy to teeth is plaque – this is made of a mix of food debris, oral bacteria and saliva proteins. In the wild, cats naturally clean their teeth by ripping and tearing their prey though even this does not stop all dental problems. Most domestic cats do not survive solely on hunting for their food supply and we cannot rely on this solely for oral hygiene!
The key to preventing, or at least delaying, dental disease in your pet is by oral maintenance at home by you, the owner. Home care is often started shortly after dental surgery when your cat has a “clean” mouth.
Brushing the teeth daily – this is the gold standard. Braid Vets stock suitable finger brushes, toothbrushes and enzymatic toothpaste specially formulated for cats teeth.
- start with a finger brush and a small amount of paste. Concentrate on a small number of teeth at the front of the mouth and brush in a soft circular motion.
- over a number of days gradually increase the number of teeth brushed. Only brush the outer surfaces, especially aiming for the gum margin.
- when your pet is confident with the finger brush then introduce the tooth brush. If you push a small amount of paste into the bristles this will help stop instant licking off. A reward can then be offered e.g. a small amount of Hills T/D diet.
- try and incorporate brushing into a pre-existing routine as you are more likely to remember to brush the teeth regularly.
- not all toothpaste is the same. We recommend CET paste as it is enzymatic and this helps break down plaque. Pet shop toothpaste is not enzymatic.
Dietary Control – not all cats are willing to have their teeth brushed. Wet cat food e.g. sachets or pouches has several faults. Firstly, they add to the soft sticky matrix that is the basis of dental plaque. Secondly, they have no cleaning action on the teeth and thirdly because such diets are soft, cats do not need to produce much saliva to swallow them and this deprives the mouth of a powerful cleaning agent. At Braid Vets our preference is to feed good quality dry pelleted diets. For dental care our first choice is Hills Prescription T/D Diet – this diet removes plaque from the teeth as your pet bites. Feed at least 1/3rd of the daily ration as T/D diet, though it can be fed as the sole source of food. Hills Prescription T/D Diet becomes out first choice if your cat is unwilling to have their teeth brushed. We also stock Vet Aquadent – this is a refreshing and palatable drinking water additive that helps fight bad breath and dental plaque.
Treats – there are a variety of dental treats available for cats. In general Braid Vets recommend using Hills Prescription T/D Diet if brushing your cat’s teeth is not achievable.
Regular check ups
We recommend check ups at least every six months until we are satisfied that any ongoing problems are under control. Braid Vets will send you a letter inviting you to your next check-up. Problems like neck lesions, gingivitis and tartar build-up can easily take a firm hold if the check up interval is too long. We will keep you advised regarding the state of your pet’s teeth and whether any further action is necessary.