Brushing Teeth: One of the Most Important Things You Can Do to Keep Your Cat Healthy
September 20, 2011
In this short video, Dr. Karen Becker explains how to get your cat used to having his teeth cleaned. Routine home dental care will reduce plaque and tartar buildup on kitty's teeth, and gum disease as your pet ages.
By Dr. Becker
Today I want to demonstrate how to brush a cat's teeth. Wish me luck!
Just kidding! It's really not as scary as you might think to brush your kitty's teeth.
Getting Your Cat Used to Tooth Brushing
Most cats and dogs aren't using to having an instrument like a toothbrush in their mouths. That's why I recommend to all new pet owners – especially those with kittens and puppies – that right from the start you incorporate facial and gum massages into your daily interaction with your pet.
Touch your kitten everywhere. Touch the top of the head, stroke your kitten's forehead, both sides of his cheeks, around his mouth. Touch the entire face and get kitty used to the sensation so he can realize he has nothing to fear or be grumpy about. Desensitizing your cat's face by incorporating daily facial contact is the first step.
My model today is Tyler, who is new to having his teeth brushed. As you can see, he's not entirely comfortable with having his face and mouth touched.
With a young kitten or puppy, you can pretty quickly move from stroking the face to slipping your fingers in the mouth just to get him accustomed to the activity.
Tyler has never had his teeth brushed, so this is all new to him. (As you'll see here in a minute, his teeth are fabulous because he's a raw-fed boy.)
So imagine it's in the evening after dinner, and Tyler's tummy is full with his raw-fed meal. His dad wants to brush Tyler's teeth to help reduce the likelihood he'll get gingivitis as he ages. I've sent Tyler's dad home with an enzymatic tooth solution, one of several I use here at Natural Pet. Enzymatic gels help to break down the plaque and tarter that accumulates on the surface of teeth.
What I'm going to demonstrate with Tyler, since he's new to all this, is simply how to begin to get your cat accustomed to teeth brushing. After his dad has done what I'm about to show you for several weeks or even months, he'll be ready for the next step.
We start with a finger, move gradually to a piece of gauze, then to a finger toothbrush, and finally to a real cat toothbrush. You can't start out with a cat toothbrush, because it will be painful for the cat and will also freak him right out.
Graduating from Fingers to a Real Kitty Toothbrush
I put a little bit of the enzymatic tooth gel on my finger. Next I pull Tyler's lip back and very briefly massage the gel into his back molars on one side.
You can tell by Tyler's reaction he thinks this whole business is weird. But he's being quite gracious, even though I used mint-flavored gel instead of salmon flavored by mistake!
After a few months of rubbing the gel on the back molars, which is where most of the plaque and tartar accumulate on cats' teeth, you can move to the pre-molars, canines and incisors. But what you're accomplishing initially is getting kitty used to having your fingers in his mouth, and you're also getting some of the enzymatic solution onto the teeth.
There are a lot of different types of pet toothpaste on the market. You can buy it locally at small pet supply stores or big box stores. You can order online as well. It doesn't matter which type of toothpaste you use, as long as it doesn't contain fluoride. I recommend brands with primarily natural ingredients. I use enzyme-based products for most of the patients in my practice.
After your cat is desensitized to having fingers in his mouth and has grown relatively comfortable with the procedure, you can move to the next step, which is to wrap your finger in a piece of gauze.
Next put a bit of toothpaste on the gauze and massage those back molars on both sides. Gauze is slightly more abrasive than your finger. Do this nightly after dinner to reduce the plaque and tartar buildup that occurs as part of the aging process.
After kitty gets comfortable with gauze, you can move to a finger toothbrush, which is slightly more abrasive than gauze. And then on to the real cat toothbrush, which is the most abrasive of all and best able to remove buildup from the teeth.