Your cat will rarely complain about dental issues until they are severe. If you see your cat avoiding the food dish, pawing at their mouth, and drooling, they may already have a significant tooth or gum issue. A trip to the veterinary clinic will verify this. You can monitor your cat's dental condition and catch problems before they become a serious health issue. Here are some of the dental problems that your cat can have and how you can spot them.
Plaque and Tartar Buildup
Look for a yellow or brown substance on your cat's teeth. Plaque is caused by food stuck to your cat's teeth. If allowed to remain on the teeth, this soft material turns into hard tartar. The tartar traps bacteria on your cat's teeth, and this is a cause of tooth decay and gum disease. Your vet can clean the plaque and tartar off of the teeth before any decay starts.
If the tartar occurs below the gum line, your cat's gums can become red and swollen from the irritation. This is called gingivitis, and it can turn into a painful gum condition. The gums will start to recede from the teeth, creating a space where food and bacteria can be trapped. The veterinarian will need to clean the tartar away from the gum line and start your cat on antibiotics to get rid of any infection.
When the gum irritation is severe, the gums turn bright red and can start bleeding. You may see pockets of pus around the base of the affected teeth, and your cat's breath will have a strong odor. Teeth may become loose in their sockets so that you can wiggle them slightly. Your cat may also begin to paw at their mouth and drool because of the pain. Your veterinarian will start your cat on powerful antibiotics to clear up the infection. They will also clean infected material away from the base of the teeth. Some of the most severely affected teeth may have to be pulled in order to stop the infection.
Swollen Lips and Cheeks
The gum infection can become so severe that the other tissues in your cat's mouth become painful and inflamed. At this point, your cat is avoiding the food dish and may cry or howl when they do try to eat. Besides antibiotics, the vet may have to pull several of your cat's teeth to curb the infection.
For more information, consult a veterinary clinic, such as Community Animal Hospital.