White cat showing teeth at vet. Photography ©Darunechka | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

5 Signs of Cat Dental Disease


According to the American Veterinary Dental Society, almost 70 percent of cats start showing signs of oral disease by their third birthday. If your cat’s teeth are in bad shape, that can contribute to health problems including heart and kidney disease, and decrease your cat’s quality of life. Because cats hide their pain, you probably won’t know your cat’s mouth is hurting until her oral disease is very severe.

Although your cat can’t tell you if she has a toothache, there are five signs that can clue you in to the fact that her mouth may be bothering her.

1. Bad breath

Gray cat smiling and showing teeth.
Bad cat breath isn’t normal — if your cat has bad breath, it may be a sign of cat dental disease. Photography ©NiseriN | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

It’s not normal for a cat’s breath to smell fishy or rotten. If you need to turn your head away when your cat breathes on you, or if your skin stinks after she licks you, that’s a good sign that your cat is having dental troubles.

2. Eating funny

If your cat seems to chew with only one side of her mouth, or if she’s dropping her food when she eats, that may mean that she’s having oral pain.

3. Decreased interest in food

If your cat approaches the food bowl and acts like she’s hungry, but then seems reluctant to eat, her mouth is probably bothering her.

4. Reluctance to be touched around the mouth

If your cat used to enjoy having the sides of her face petted and no longer does, it may be because her mouth hurts.

5. Excessive drooling

If your cat is salivating more than usual — especially if the saliva contains blood— that’s a sign of dental disease. Cats may also paw at their mouths or shake their heads because of the pain.

If your cat is experiencing any of these symptoms, lift her lip by her molars, if she’ll let you. If you see yellow-brown gunk on her teeth, that’s tartar buildup. If your cat’s gums are red, that’s gingivitis, or inflammation of the gum tissue.

Severe oral disease can result in bleeding gums, broken teeth, and a host of other painful problems. If you see gingivitis or tartar buildup, or if your cat is showing the signs above but won’t let you touch her mouth, call your vet and schedule an appointment.

Treatment of cat dental disease

The first step in treating cat dental disease is a cleaning and scaling. In this procedure, which is done under general anesthesia, the veterinarian uses instruments to remove tartar from your cat’s teeth and below her gums. After the tartar has been removed, the vet may discover that some teeth need to be removed because of resorptive lesions (cavities) or weakening of the bone structure holding the tooth in its socket. Once the tartar is removed, the vet will polish your cat’s teeth to remove any microscopic scratches that could lead to decay.

How to prevent cat dental disease

In order to keep your cat’s teeth healthy and shiny, start a preventive care program consisting of brushing your cat’s teeth with toothpaste made just for cats. A web search will yield a lot of information on how to clean your cat’s teeth at home. Products such as dental chews or drinking water additives can also reduce tartar buildup.

Keeping your cat’s mouth healthy will keep your cat healthy and allow you to enjoy many happy years together.

Tell us: Has your cat ever suffered from a dental disease? What were the signs?

Thumbnail: Photography ©Darunechka | iStock / Getty Images Plus.

Read more about cat teeth and cat dental disease on Catster.com:

12 thoughts on “5 Signs of Cat Dental Disease”

  1. My cat is a rescue. We got her at 9 months and she had just given birth to 2 kittens. She is now 4 years old. Perfect loving indoor cat. I discovered she only has 3 fangs for teeth. I think she has been like this since we got her. She still eats dry food but gets her wet food everyday for supper. I had to take her to the vet cause suddenly she stopped eating and drinking and seemed weak. I took her to the vet. Her bloodwork was all good. He said she has inflammation which must of been in her gum. They gave me pain med for her which she only needed 1-1/2 days. She came right back to her normal self. Now tonight she started acting sad again and not wanting anything. She ate all,her supper so it was only after supper this started to happen again. I gave her a pain med since I still had some, hoping it would take away any pain overnight. She may need to get that fang out. I feel so bad for her. She is such a good cat and loved very much.

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  5. Hi there I am a first time cat owner and its great but I was just seeing if it’s normal for a cat to use I hard brush to rub there faces next to there mouths really hard as my Prince puss puss he does it and he also scraping his mouth across the edges of my tables I my be silly but wanting to see if anyone can help thank you from puss puss and owner April

  6. I have a 15 year old cat. She hasn’t eaten since Fri nite. Took her to vet said she has a bad tooth n it’s infected. Due to her age n price vet gave her an antibiotic shot. Still not eating would cause her pain. Bought baby food for her but still not eating. Wat e l see can I do

    1. I am going through the exact same situation. His liver and kidneys are good but he is 15. I am so nervous about getting his teeth pulled and him not waking up. Is there anything else I could do?

  7. My 9 year old Bombay had periodontal disease so we had 4 teeth pulled. Now he’s not constipated all the time like he’s been for so long and nobody knew what the cause or what to do. It turned his life around as he’s such a happy cat now. His teeth were putting poisons into his system & probably would have killed him. So glad we had his teeth fixed.

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  9. I recently adopted a feral kitten. He’s warmed up to us and forgot he was feral. I took him to the vet, he got his shots and everything but he has bad breath. I told the veterinarian that when he eats pellet, half falls out of its mouth. Thing is, he shows no signs of pain when you touch his mouth and his gums seem normal, no teeth rotten nor signs of tartar. He’s 3months old, what can I do?

    1. It seems odd that a kitten would have dental disease?? Did your vet tell you that your kitten needed to have his teeth cleaned?

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