Published by: Ingrid King. Last Updated on: January 25, 2023 by Crystal Uys


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Dental disease is the most frequently diagnosed health problem for cats. According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, an astounding 70 percent of cats show signs of oral disease by age 3.

The inflammation and infection associated with periodontal disease can lead to damage to other organs such as the heart, kidney and liver, and lead to other serious health problems.  Dental disease can also be an indicator of immune system disorders.

How dental disease develops

Normal teeth should be white or just a little yellow.  Gums should be light pink and smooth (except in breeds with pigmented gums). Oral disease begins with a build up of plaque and tartar in your cat’s mouth.  Without proper preventive and therapeutic care, plaque and tartar buildup leads to periodontal disease, which manifests in red and/or swollen and tender gums, bad breath, and bleeding. When the gums are swollen, they can be painful – a good rule of thumb is that if it looks like it might be painful, it probably is. Cats are masters at masking pain – when in doubt, assume that your cat is experiencing at least some discomfort.

Cats rarely show symptoms of dental disease until it is in its advanced stages.

Regular veterinary exams

Cats should see the vet at least once a year, cats seven or older twice a year. A thorough dental exam should be part of every veterinary visit.

Professional cleaning under anesthesia

Even with regular home care, your cat may need periodic professional cleanings. Cat guardians are often reluctant to perform proper dental procedures because of the need for general anesthesia, especially in the older patient. Pre-anesthesia testing can help determine the risk associated with general anesthesia and aid in the decision of whether or not to perform a dental procedure.

Do not let anyone tell you that it’s possible to perform a thorough anesthesia-free dental cleaning on cats. Anesthesia-free dentistry is essentially a cosmetic procedure that addresses only the parts of your pet’s teeth you can see. An additional issue with just scraping teeth is that the mouth is full of blood vessels, which can launch oral bacteria into the bloodstream. Once the bacteria is in the bloodstream it can infect other organs. Anesthesia-free dental cleanings may do more harm than good.

Anesthesia-free dental cleanings may do more harm than good.

How to care for your cat’s teeth at home

Brush your cat’s teeth

Brushing your cat’s teeth is the single most effective thing you can do to ensure good dental health throughout your cat’s life. And before you say “my cat would never let me brush her teeth,” think again. Ideally, you get your cat used to having her teeth brushed when she’s a kitten, but with a little patience and persistence, even older cats will accept having their teeth brushed.

The Cornell Feline Health Center developed a 4-week training program that should get most cats used to having their teeth brushed.

Dental treats

There are a lot of dental treats and so-called “dental diets” on the market. Almost all of them are dry foods or treats. And I don’t believe that they work. Most cats don’t chew dry food or dry treats long enough for any of the scraping action that is the theory of how these diets and treats supposedly work to kick in. What little they do chew shatters into small pieces. Some pet food manufacturers offer a “dental diet” that is made up of larger than normal sized kibble to encourage chewing, but in my years at veterinary practices, I’ve seen many cats swallow even those larger size pieces whole. Additionally, dry food leaves a carbohydrate residue in the cat’s mouth that actually encourages growth of tartar and plaque.

The only dental treats I recommend are the  CET Enzymatic Oral Hygiene Chews for Cats.The enzymes in these treats are supposed to reduce the build up of tartar and plaque. The ingredients are not the greatest, but they’re not horrible, either. The individual treats are about an inch long, so they’re pretty big – the size of a small mouse – and it does take a while for my girls to chew them.

If you feed raw, you can give your cats raw chicken necks. Gnawing on the bones will help scrape away tartar and plaque. NEVER give cooked bones to your cats, they can splinter and cause intestinal perforations. Even though I feed raw, giving raw chicken necks exceeds my comfort level – not because I’m worried about them chewing on the raw bones, but because the one time I tried it, they dragged them all over the (carpeted) house.

Two products that work to keep your cat’s gums and teeth healthy

I use both of these products for Allegra and Ruby every day. They’re easy to use, and they’re effective.



1TDC™ (which stands for 1-TetraDecanol Complex) is a revolutionary natural solution that keeps gums, joints, and muscles healthy at a cellular level. Healthy gums maintain the structural integrity of the teeth. 1TDC™’s unique technology is highly and rapidly absorbed, whether applied topically on the gums or taken orally in capsule form. When it enters the body, 1TDC™ has a tremendous affinity for white blood cells, which allows it to get where it is needed quickly. 1TDC™ efficiently does the job without interfering with other elements of your cat’s health.

The 1TDC™ technology has been clinically proven effective and was published in The Journal of Periodontology in 2007 and 2009. Dr. James Anthony, a boarded veterinary dentist with over 30 years of experience, conducted a double blind periodontal health study with cats at The University of Saskatchewan. His research demonstrated positive results beyond the studies published in The Journal of Periodontology.

1TDC™ is easy to administer. Simply twist the capsule open, and either squeeze the capsule and let your cat lick it as it exits the capsule, gently squeeze the capsule contents into your cat’s mouth, squeeze the capsule contents on top of your cat’s food or on her paw or nose. The cat’s natural licking motion will distribute the product onto the gums.

MAXI/GUARD Oral Cleansing Gel


MAXI/GUARD Oral Cleansing Gel contains zinc ascorbate/taurine in an easy to administer, taste-free gel that adheres to the gums. It helps reduce the accumulation of plaque and tartar and bad breath. Zinc ascorbate also stimulates collagen production. Collagen aids in repairing tissue. The gel is easy to administer: simply place a pea-sized drop on your index finger. Rub the gel briefly over the gum area above the outside back molars. Repeat on the opposite side. That’s it! The gel will stimulate the salivary glands, and provide a gentle bathing action throughout the oral cavity. There is no need to rub the additional gel on multiple oral areas.

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11 Comments on How to Care for Your Cat’s Teeth

  1. Hi. Is it a pea size drop for each side of the mouth? Or if I use a cotton swab, I add some gel and swipe one side of the month. Then get a new cotton swab with new gel for the other side of the mouth?

    • I use roughly a pea size drop, maybe slightly more, for the entire mouth. If you use a cotton swab, I’d probably use a new one for each side, since you probably can’t fit quite as much gel on the tip of the swab.

    • Here you go, Debbie:

  2. I just received my order of Maxi Guard oral gel for my kitties. Day 1 of cleaning teeth. Didn’t go as badly as I The four of them are 11 & 12 yrs old. As they have gotten older the past 3 years it has been crazy with dental vet bills. Each time a teeth cleaning turns from a base geriatrics $375 to $700/$1000. With multiple tooth extractions etc.. I need a crown but can’t afford to get it. Haha.. But I find a way to pay for my furbabies dental. My needing a crown is just a minor inconvenience for me and I chew on the other side of my mouth. The kitties is a matter of life & death. The bad dental can kill them by making them sick. So from now on I will do oral cleaning and see if it helps. I hope this gel will help =^^=

  3. Ingrid, Have you tried Oratene veterinary gel? My vet suggested this product several months ago. I am using it now but not long enough to see results yet. I will look into the products above as well. Thank you for another good post!

  4. My 11 year old Cat Matahari developed gum bleeding problems at a young age and losing her canine teeth in the process. She is normal but I always give her soft food.. Bizarrely her male kitten Matata now a 10 year old tomcat has very strong teeth akin to a hyena and I give him chicken bones for gnawing to strengthen his teeth. He is a miniature leopard in temperament.

    • I have had a couple cats over years who had plaque problems. They seemed to build it up quicker than others. I remembered that way back in the day I had two dentists who used to use the ridges of a nickel to clean their teeth. It has to be done before the plaque is really caked on.

      Now that I have a senior cat with a similar issue, I use this method in between her teeth cleaning and it has stopped the build up to getting to the point of extreme bleeding and infections. I don’t do it often, you have to be careful about the enamel on their teeth, I just monitor and do as needed. I’m sure this would make many cringe but it’s an old time practice that seems to do the trick.

      And of course you need an agreeable cat!

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