Common Cat Dental Problems

When pets don't receive the proper dental care, it can lead to serious oral health concerns. Many of these situations can result in dental disease by the time your kitty is three years old. Here, our Madison vets share some of the common dental problems in cats and what can be done to protect your pet's oral health.

Pet Dental Care: Common Cat Dental Problems

When your cat experiences dental issues, it can cause serious pain and discomfort as well as lead to potentially serious complications. If you don't seek veterinary care at the first signs of s potential issue you risk your cat suffering through infections, tooth loss, and even systemic diseases that impact their internal organs.

What are the symptoms of dental problems in pets?

When a cat is experiencing teeth problems, some of the common symptoms may include:

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

If your cat is showing signs of dental issues, please reach out to your vet right away to schedule a dental examination.

Dental Problems That Commonly Affect Cats

There are a number of serious conditions that can affect your cat's oral health. Some of the most commonly diagnosed are:

Gum Disease

Most cats will suffer from gum disease (periodontal disease) at some point in their lives. As many as 70% of cats do by the time they are 3 years of age.

This disease is an infection caused by bacteria found in plaque – the soft film of bacteria and food debris that builds up on teeth over the course of the day. If your cat's plaque isn't regularly brushed away or cleaned, it will harden and form tartar that extends below their gum line. 

When the bacteria gets trapped below your cat's gum line it will begin to create pockets of infection between your cat's teeth and gums. If periodontal disease progresses to its advanced stage, it can result in loose or missing teeth. 


Occasionally, cats may experience ulcers affecting the soft tissues in their mouth. This is referred to as feline stomatitis.

Some breeds, such as 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 that causes them to lose their appetites. 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, but severe cases require surgical intervention. 

Tooth Resorption

When a cat's tooth becomes damaged, there is a chance that their body will begin to break it down and absorb it back into their body. This is called resorption. This is a relatively common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats. 

It isn't known what causes tooth resorption, but unlike a cavity, it creates a lesion that cannot be filled. The resorption starts on the inside of the tooth and works its way outward toward the crown and tooth enamel. 

Unfortunately, by the time most cases of tooth resorption are spotted, the tooth is dying and painful. The treatment recommendation for tooth resorption is typically surgical extraction of the affected tooth.

Preventing These and Other Dental Problems in Cats

With a little care and attention, you will be able to ensure the ongoing health of your cat's teeth for life. Here are some of the ways that you can help care for your cat's teeth:

  • Brushing your cat's teeth regularly using a pet-safe toothbrush and toothpaste can help prevent the buildup of plaque and tartar. Starting when your cat is young can help make brushing a normal part of their daily life.
  • Providing dental treats and toys specifically designed to promote oral health can help reduce plaque and massage the gums. Be sure to ask your vet which dental treats they recommend.
  • Feeding your cat a high-quality food that provides balanced nutrition can contribute to improved oral health. If your cat is showing signs of dental problems, ask your vet if a food formulated to help treat dental issues would be right for your feline family member.

The Importance of Routine Dog and Cat Professional Dental Care

Routine veterinary checkups are crucial for monitoring your pet's dental health. During these visits, the veterinarian will examine your dog or cat's mouth, and let you know whether professional teeth cleaning is necessary to address any developing dental issues. Regular check-ups ensure that dental problems are caught in their early stages, preventing them from developing into more serious conditions.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is your cat or dog in need of routine dental care such as a cleaning or examination? Contact our Madison vets today to book an appointment.