Dental care is as important for cats as it is for humans, but not for cosmetic reasons, and National Pet Dental Health Month was implemented to increase awareness of this. Not long ago, the idea of providing dental care to cats was laughable, but understanding and acceptance has grown over time.
According to the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA), diseases of the mouth are the most commonly diagnosed health problem in both cats and dogs. Periodontal disease can lead to problems with other organs, such as liver, kidneys and heart. A statement from the Cornell (University) Feline Health Center warns that purebred cats such as Maine Coons and Siamese are genetically predisposed to dental problems.
As in humans, periodontal disease is the buildup of plaque on the teeth and likely inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). Cats infected with the Feline Leukemia virus or Bartonella are especially susceptible to oral disease; owners may discuss testing for these infections with a veterinarian prior to a dental procedure.
Cats with stomatitis greatly benefit from dental care; in fact it is essential. Stomatis is basically severe inflammation of the mouth, and can be terribly painful. The mouth can become so inflamed that eating and drinking are difficult and the body may attack the teeth in an autoimmune response (dental resorption).
Dental procedures are performed under general anesthesia and involve cleaning and polishing the teeth and giving the mouth a thorough examination that is not possible while the cat is awake. If necessary, the veterinary team will extract teeth and treat the cat with antibiotics.
Many veterinarians plan for National Pet Dental Health Month. For example, CNY Veterinary Medical Services in Westmoreland is offering 10% off dental cleanings in February (discount is only applied to the scale and polish) and they have stocked up on several products such as toothpaste and dental chews for both cats and dogs.