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Caring for Kitty Teeth

Ensuring healthy teeth and gums for your cat is one area where you and your veterinarian must work together. Dental scalings and polishings by your veterinarian are an important part of preventive medicine, and keeping teeth clean between veterinary appointments is something that can — and should — be done by cat lovers.

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Plaque buildup on teeth causes gums to recede, opening pockets at the root line that are paradise to bacterial infections. Left unchecked, these infections can lead to tooth loss, make eating painful, and put the cat's immune system and internal organs under pressure, causing illness and premature aging. What's more, rotting teeth and gums can become a powerful source of bad breath that some pet owners treat with products that may temporarily fix the smell but do nothing to solve the real problem.

Although some groomers and cat owners scale plaque themselves, this practice doesn't address the problem at the base level. Regular cleanings under anesthesia by a veterinarian are essential to ensure dental health. In between, brushing your cat's teeth two or three times a week with a child's toothbrush or fingertip brush and a toothpaste designed for pets slows the reformation of plaque and extends the time between dental scalings. Brushing your cat's teeth is not always easy to do, but if your cat will let you do it, you can make a big difference in his oral health. Doing so also saves you money by increasing the time between dental cleanings at your veterinarian's.

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The key to getting a cat used to having his teeth brushed is to do it in small steps over time and to be patient and encouraging. As with nail trims or other procedures your cat may not appreciate, making teeth cleaning part of a session of petting capped by play may make things easier for you both.

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