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People already know that brushing teeth is one of the most effective ways to prevent oral health conditions like gum disease in humans. Cats also face similar issues, and can similarly benefit from having their teeth brushed daily. Approximately 8 out of 10 cats over the age of 3 have dental problems and dental disease. Most of these issues stem from a lack of routine dental care.
Regular tooth brushing helps to maintain good feline oral health and prevent costly oral health treatments (separate from cleanings) and tooth extractions. It can also help to stave off a cat’s bad breath. Here’s what pet parents need to know about how to brush a cat’s teeth to help them maintain their long-term health.
To brush a cat’s teeth, pet parents will need the right oral care tools. Look for a soft-bristled baby toothbrush, finger brush, or specialty cat toothbrush. Pet parents will need specially-formulated animal toothpaste. Do not use toothpaste meant for humans. Some ingredients can be harmful to cats if swallowed. Avoid baking soda, as well.
When it comes to a cat’s teeth cleaning, timing is everything. The last thing that pet parents want is for tooth brushing to be a negative or stressful experience. Always choose a calm time and comfortable environment.
Before starting, engage the cat with a tasty treat. Reinforce positive behavior with affection and calm energy. If the cat appears frightened or tries to run away, pick a different time. Forcing or fighting them will only trigger more fear and resistance.
Before brushing, lift a cat’s upper lip and examine their gum line. Keep an eye out for areas of excess plaque and tartar buildup, as well as spots that appear sensitive. Pet parents should be careful and patient when they approach these areas of a cat’s mouth.
Apply a small amount of toothpaste to the bristles of the toothbrush. Hold a cat’s head at a 45-degree angle and gently pull back their lips. To get them acclimated to brushing, start by focusing on the large cheek teeth and canines. These are the teeth that develop plaque and tartar buildup the fastest. Praise the cat throughout the process and speak to them in a comforting tone while brushing.
Most gum damage occurs on the outer surfaces and around the roots. The cat’s rough tongue naturally removes plaque from the inner surfaces, reducing the need to brush them as frequently. If a cat is particularly cooperative, pet parents can give the inner surfaces a good once over from time to time.
Eventually, pet parents should be able to reach the teeth all the way at the back of their mouth. Developing a cat’s patience for brushing may take time and consistent effort over weeks or months. Even if they hate brushing there are still some steps pet parents can take to keep a cat’s mouth healthy between brushings. Keeping at it will help to keep a cat’s mouth healthy and clean.
For cats, tooth brushing is unnatural. It takes a considerable amount of trust and affection for them to become comfortable with it. Learning how to brush a cat’s teeth is the first step—patience is key. With time, practice, and plenty of love, pet parents can get their feline companions on board with cat dental care.