What is tartar and why does tartar form?
It occurs mainly in adult cats and is characterized by yellow or brown deposits on the surface of the teeth. In most cases, the rear outer surfaces of the molars are affected first, but the front teeth can also be gradually affected.
In general, tartar is an accumulation of dental plaque, which consists of film-like structures and is deposited on the surface of the teeth. It is formed by the accumulation of small particles of food, bacteria, and fungi. Potassium salts in saliva cause mineralization of dental plaque, resulting in tartar in cats.
Diseases Related To Tartar Build-Up
If your cat has severe dental disease and it’s not dealt with, the build-up of the bacteria in the mouth can lead to further complications such as heart and kidney issues. The following is a list of other common diseases related to tartar build-up:
- Periodontal Disease (bacterial inflammation of the periodontium, the support base of the teeth)
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- Lymphoplasmacytic Stomatitis (inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth) or
- Gingivitis Stomatitis Oropharyngitis the cause of this disease is still unknown, but stress, plaque, and infectious agents such as feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV) or Feline leukemia virus (FeLV) are important causal factors. Stomatitis causes inflammatory growths of the oral mucosa, some of which have small blisters on the surface.
Symptoms Of Tartar In Cats
The breakdown of carbohydrates and sugar leads to lactic acid formation, which eventually causes the decomposition of the surrounding gums. In addition, other structures such as tooth enamel or the periodontal ligament are damaged. The latter is an important part of the periodontium that surrounds the root of the tooth.
This can lead to periodontal diseases such as inflammation of the periodontium (periodontitis) or inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Therefore, in addition to the yellowish-brown deposits, other symptoms may also occur, such as:
- Bad breath
- Gum bleeding and gum loss
- Damage to the periodontium and other surrounding structures.
- Loosening of the teeth and teeth loss
- Inflammation and pain in the mouth
- Reduction or alteration of chewing behavior and weight loss
- Lymphoplasmacytic stomatitis or gingivitis-stomatitis-oropharyngitis; swelling of the oral lymph nodes and oral mucosa with vesicular inflammation (blisters)
- Penetration of bacteria into the periodontal pockets; possibly inflammation and abscesses in other organs such as the kidneys
Diagnosis Of Tartar Build-Up
In general, tartar in cats can be detected quickly due to yellowish-brown dental deposits. In principle, it does not require immediate veterinary treatment. However, if the deposits appear more frequently and cause inflammatory processes, it is advisable to visit the vet as soon as possible.
Oftentimes, the vet can visually assess the extent of tartar and accompanying symptoms, such as gingivitis or inflammation of the periodontium, by examining the mouth. Since tartar and inflammations in the oral area (for example, in the context of lymphoplasmacytic stomatitis in cats) are associated with certain infectious diseases, it is recommended in these cases to do a blood test. Using a special blood test, important infectious agents can be diagnosed and, if possible, treated.
To also exclude damage to bone structures, an x-ray is recommended. Thus the jaw and teeth can be more accurately analyzed to detect structural and inflammatory changes.
Treatment for tartar in cats
If the spread of tartar is already so severe that the health of the tooth and surrounding structures are in danger and the vet cannot remove the deposits with his fingers, it is advisable to perform a professional tartar removal under anesthesia. For this, the following measures will be taken:
- For anesthesia, it is important that the cat is fasting. This means that the cat cannot eat during the previous 6 hours before anesthesia.
- The vet will use special equipment to remove tartar buildup within the feline’s mouth.
- Using special ultrasound devices, called scalers, the remaining plaque and tartar are completely removed from the tooth and the interdental gap using waves. Meanwhile, the teeth and gums are cleaned with a rinse, and the resulting debris is removed from the oral cavity with water and a suction device.
- Once all the tartar has been removed, the teeth are polished to prevent the formation of plaque and tartar.
- If necessary, the vet may extract teeth if they are severely damaged due to infection or tartar build-up.
- After the removal process anti-inflammatories and pain relievers may be helpful to make your cat feel more comfortable.
Preventing tartar in cats
Not all cases of diseases of tartar require professional tooth cleaning or extraction. However, if the latter is necessary, the cat’s normal food intake is rarely affected. Tartar is very common in older cats and is difficult to prevent. However, there are some tips you can follow to avoid the rapid development of tartar and subsequent diseases.
First, regular dental health check-ups are performed by a veterinarian. If possible, clean your feline’s teeth regularly with toothpaste and special toothbrushes for cats. This can prevent the formation of plaque and tartar.
We recommend acquiring the following items to clean your cat’s teeth; a cat toothbrush, feline toothpaste (human toothpaste is not safe for cats), and treats. It is best to let your cat become familiar with the smell of the toothpaste in order to make brushing easier.
Dental treats are another good option to work into the tooth-care routine of your cat, as they are specifically designed to attack plaque by scraping it away from the feline’s teeth before it builds up.