Kittens Age 12 to 15 Weeks of Age
Introducing Kitten to Dental Care
Your kitten is beginning to lose his baby teeth and cut his first permanent teeth. The conditions in a cat's mouth are different than in a human mouth. The saliva is much less acidic and the teeth are less prone to decay and the development of cavities. While tooth decay is much less of a problem, the development of gum disease is much more of a problem. Cats are prone to build-up of tartar at the gum line, inflammation of the gums and the development of pocketing under the gum line around the tooth root. These changes can lead to premature tooth loss and the absorption of bacteria (and their toxins) through the gum tissue. Research demonstrates that good oral care can not only preserve the teeth but also reduce the development of organ disease (heart valves, kidneys and the liver can be affected). Oral care is divided into two areas, slowing the build-up of tartar and dental cleaning to remove tartar at the gum-line.
Slowing Tartar Build-up
Tartar build-up can be reduced by several methods. Prescription veterinary diets (Hill's Prescription Diet T/D) can be very effective. After years of research it was found the most effective texture of food to prevent tartar build-up is neither hard nor soft, but somewhere in-between. This food is soft enough that when the animal's tooth bites into the food and is withdrawn it will retain the impression of the tooth. But the food is hard enough that some plaque on the tooth is removed as the tooth is withdrawn from the bite. It is often used for pets when brushing of the teeth is not possible.
Brushing the teeth is the gold standard for the removal of plaque. C.E.T. Toothpastes have mild abrasives and cleaning enzymes that combine with the mechanical scrubbing of the toothbrush to give the greatest reduction in tartar and gum disease. Although your kitten does not have all of his permanent teeth at this age, it is a good time to introduce him to the toothbrush. Begin by allowing your cat to taste the toothpaste off of the toothbrush. Once he's developed a taste for it, place a small amount on your fingertip and gently rub your finger along his gums and then give him another taste. Gradually increase the amount of time you rub the gums. Then gradually introduce the toothbrush with some of the toothpaste on it along the gum line, brushing only one tooth and then remove the brush and reward the kitten with praise and a treat. Gradually increase the number of teeth that are brushed before the reward is given over the next 4 weeks. Often times your cat will chew on the bristles and essentially brush his own teeth. Animal toothpastes differ from human pastes in that they do not foam or contain fluoride (making them edible). Remember anything less than three times weekly will not significantly reduce tartar build-up.
You can help us watch for the early signs of inflammation of the gums and the earliest signs of gum disease. Tartar build-up occurs first on the cheek-side surface of the upper rows of teeth. Keep a watch on these areas at least once monthly. At the first sign of redness and swelling where the gum tissue and tooth meet, please call our office. Professional dental cleaning is most effective before the gum tissue has begun to recede. As is the case in your mouth, once the gum tissue has receded it will never again be the same. 80% of cats over three years of age have some evidence of gum disease. In our hospital, we use scaling and polishing instruments similar to what is used in human dentistry to remove the tartar both from the crown and the area just below the gum line. Dental cleaning is potentially one of the most important things we can do to prevent pain and extend the healthy years of your pet.
Care of Ears
Routine cleansing and care of the ear canals is very important Some studies have been done where the bacteria that cause ear infections have been intentionally introduced into the ear canal. These studies show that when the ear canal is free of excessive wax and moisture and the ear canal has a more acidic environment, often the bacteria are unable to "set-up-shop" and cause a true ear infection. It is our belief that with regular cleansing of the ear canals with an acidifying cleanser (Oti-clens) will prevent almost half of all ear infections. The ear canal is filled almost to overflowing (the goal is to "float up" material that is deep in the ear canal near the ear drum) and the base of the ear canal is massaged for one to two minutes. A small piece of cotton wrapped over your finger or a cotton ball is used to wipe the material from the ear canal (try to use a lifting motion that will not push the material deeper into the canals) and the pet is allowed to shake the remaining solution from the canals. The Oti-clens medication should be used weekly during the warm humid months of the year and twice monthly during the cooler months.