How Owners Can Properly Examine Their Cat's Teeth and Gums

Cat yawning
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A critical part of a dental care program for cats is a routine at-home examination of their teeth and gums. Below are several steps for owners to take and tips for them to consider in order to make the process easy for both the cat and the owner. It is recommended that pet owners perform the following routine on their cat(s) for one to two minutes at least two to three times on a monthly basis. Owners will be glad to discover that this routine is moderately easy to learn for the health of their pet.

The First 5 Steps to Take to Check a Cat's Teeth and Gums

  1. Owners should first smell their cat's breath. An unpleasant odor may indicate an infection of the gums and/or bone. After eliminating dental problems, owners should check with their local veterinarian for other causes for the scent.
  2. While quietly talking to their cat, owners are directed to tip their cat's head back slightly from their backside.
  3. Next, using the thumb and index finger, owners can spread the side of their cat's mouth open. Owners should make sure they have a good flashlight or generally good lighting for the next few steps.
  4. Owners can then look at their cat's back teeth in search for yellowing (plaque) or darker material (tartar). Owners should also be checking for cracked or broken teeth. Then, owners can observe the color of the gums. They should be a healthy pink color, and not an angry red or a pale pink hue.
  5. Repeating step four with the front teeth is the next action owners should take. Then, they can move to the other side of the mouth for the last several steps.

    Finishing the Last Few Steps in a Cat's Routine Dental Examination

    • Owners should look into the back of the cat's throat for redness, especially "cobblestone" in appearance. This is a sign of stomatitis, a serious and painful condition usually found in older cats. An angled dental mirror will help here.
    • If at any time the cat fights for attention, the owner should give it up and try another day.
    • Owners can reward their cats with a healthy treat. For example, a dental chew would be an excellent and appropriate choice.
    • Once the owner and their cat are comfortable with the procedure, it's important to make it a regular practice. It is recommended that owners schedule a routine at least once a month for proper dental care.
    • Lastly, owners should follow up with a veterinary exam once a year. If the cat has had previous dental problems, it is suggested that owners take their cat to the vet at least twice a year or more as needed.

    3 Tips for the Monthly Dental Exam

    1. Owners should make sure to have a small penlight, angled dental mirror, and dental chew reward before starting the procedure. Being prepared is half the battle.
    2. It may be easier for owners to have a partner or friend hold the cat's mouth open while they examine the oral cavity.
    3. Choosing a comfortable spot with good lighting is recommended.