How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth for Optimal Dental Health

This post first appeared on iCatCare on the 2nd of October 2019 here.
Brushing a cat’s teeth is likely to be the single most effective way to reduce dental plaque and maintain long-term oral health. Like humans, brushing will not only prevent plaque and tartar formation; it will also promote healthy gums and reduce halitosis (bad breath). Daily or even twice daily brushing is recommended wherever possible, and this can be introduced to a cat at any age. However, this must be done gradually and with appropriate care.

Some cats seem predisposed to developing dental disease in spite of every effort made to prevent it. The chemical make-up of the saliva is one factor affecting dental and gum disease in these cats, as well as immune responses, presence of bacteria, and infection with other agents. Rigorous home care or, in severe cases, multiple teeth extractions may be needed to help these cats.

Home care
Dental home care can be started in a cat at any age, but generally, the younger the cat is when the procedure is started, the easier it is for the cat to adapt to the routine. Kittens, in particular, usually do not take long to become accustomed to brushing, whereas older cats may need a slower and more gradual approach.
The thought of brushing or cleaning your cat’s teeth may seem strange and even quite daunting. While not all cats will tolerate it, many will and it is an excellent way to maintain oral and dental health.

Home dental care is often started after the cat has had its teeth cleaned and polished under an anaesthetic by your vet. In these cases, it is usually advisable to allow a few days for the mouth to heal, and for inflammation to settle down, before starting home care. This is especially true if your cat has had any teeth removed. After this time, however, home care should be started as soon as possible.

Whether it is a kitten or an elderly cat, dental home care should be performed in the same way. It is helpful to establish a daily routine, choosing a time that is convenient to make sure brushing is done every day. Having this routine is also helpful for the cat.

Although dental home care might ideally be done after the cat has eaten, many cats eat multiple small meals a day, and you may also prefer to give the cat some food as a reward after brushing the teeth, so timing is not critical.