Dental Care for Cats - Cat Info Detective

Dental Care for Cats

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Greetings crazy cats! Skye Blake here, checking in with some info you need to know about dental care for cats.

Sounds nuts to try to brush your cat’s teeth doesn’t it!

paw prints coming in from a distance

But guess what. It’s just like your teeth… if you don’t take care of them, they’ll rot and fall out. Ewww!

Let’s look at some surprising things I’ve found while following this trail…

The information here is for general knowledge… always see your vet with questions about your cat’s individual needs. 

Who Is Skye Blake?

Skye Blake-updated, white background

Skye Blake, Cat Info Detective, is a curious cat researcher (not a veterinarian) who sniffs out expert, reliable sources about cats, studies their information, then passes it on to you! 

Sometimes there’s not enough evidence for easy answers, so Skye gives you all sides, explains the situation as thoroughly and clearly as possible, and links you to experts on each page. 

Sources are given at the bottom of each page so you can do more snooping.

Why Should I Brush My Cat’s Teeth?

person brush teeth of black cat

Ok, so here’s the obvious question… why should I brush my cat’s teeth?

My cat will never put up with that!

Doesn’t their food clean teeth?

Is dental care really that important for cats?

Here’s what I found…

ginger tabby yawning, teeth, open mouth

Dental disease is a real problem for cats and dogs as well as people.

If left untreated it can actually cause problems that can kill your feline companion!

Since cats are living longer now, it’s even more important to keep dental disease at bay.

ginger cat lounging in cardboard box

It’s painful and causes inflamed gums and tooth loss. When bad enough your cat can’t eat because of the pain.

And doing a bit of wiping or “brushing” daily can end up saving many hundreds of dollars in dental bills over your kitty’s lifetime.

What Kinds of Dental Disease Bother Cats?

graphic of broken tooth

The main dental disease in cats is periodontal disease.

Periodontal tissues are what surround and protect the crown, bone and root of each tooth.

This disease happens when plaque (bacteria) builds up until the tissues get inflamed, weakening their ability to protect the tooth.

side view of white cat's teeth

Bacteria gets below the gumline, eventually causing root decay and even destruction of the underlying bone.

Tarter (calculus) builds up on the tooth surface and allows bacteria to do even more damage.

“Tarter” is calcium salts in saliva that is resistant to removal by chewing or brushing.

generic man using hammer, chisel on tooth

In more advanced cases, the bacteria get into the bloodstream and cause serious organ problems, eventually killing your cat.

There is evidence that points to more than diet influencing the occurrence of dental disease.

Genetics have a hand in your cat’s dental health.

generic man brushing tooth

You can’t do anything to change genes, but you can focus on prevention.

If you’d like more details, go to “Periodontal Disease is Hidden” by Fraser Hale, DVM, FAVD, DipAVDC, Board Certified Veterinary Dental Specialist, 2011

Here’s a helpful video about dental disease in cats and dogs…

“A Veterinarian Talks About Dental Disease (Pt 1) How Does It Form? What Should You Ask Your Vet?”, November 2021

This video discusses the special dental problems unique to cats…

“Unique Cat Dental Concerns – What Are They? How Should They Be Treated? A Vet Explains!”, Vet Med Corner, November 2021

Treatment of Dental Disease

black cat upside down with canine teeth showing

Vets treat dental disease while your cat is under general anesthesia.

This is the only way to properly handle it because the dentist has to work below the gumline, which can’t happen without a fully sedated patient!

They often have to remove teeth in order for your cat to be free of pain and healthy.

cat with open mouth, canine teeth

This should help motivate you to do your best to prevent the problem… even if it’s just to save a lot of money.

This video is helpful to understand how vets treat dental disease.

It also explains anesthesia-free dental care and why it’s a problem…

“How Is Dental Disease Treated? What About Anesthesia Free? A Veterinarian Explains COHATs”, Vet Med Corner, October 25, 2021 (COHAT is “Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment”, known also as a dental cleaning)

Does Dry, Wet or Raw Cat Food Clean Teeth?

kibble (dry) cat food in bowl

Many veterinarians commonly say that dry cat food will clean your cat’s teeth.

The idea is that since it’s crunchy, kibble cleans food particles, biofilm and tartar off your cat’s teeth.

There’s no scientific evidence to support this claim and many cats who eat kibble still have dental problems at some point in life.

dental tools, dentist

Here’s what veterinary dentist Dr. Fraser Hale said a lecture he gave to the World Small Animals Veterinary Association (WSAVA)…

“It has long been felt that feeding a cat or a dog a dry kibble diet is better for the teeth than feeding them a processed, canned diet.

The logic goes that dry food leaves less residue in the mouth for oral bacteria to feed on and so plaque would accumulate at a slower rate.

savannah cat yawning, mouth open, teeth

Despite that, many animals fed on commercial dry diets still have heavy plaque and calculus accumulations and periodontal disease.

…While there is no conclusive scientific evidence to tell which diet is optimal for feline dental health, it is safe to say that regular dry food does not keep your cat’s teeth any cleaner than other kinds of food.” 1 Does Dry Food Actually Clean Your Cat’s Teeth? – TheCatSite Articles

calico cat stretching front half of body

This is because most dry pet foods are brittle and the kibble shatters without much resistance, so there is little or no abrasive effect from chewing.

Add to that the fact that cats tend to chew only enough to swallow pieces of food.

The kibble pieces can’t get below the gumline to keep it clean.

Many dry kibble products don’t need to be chewed… your cat simply swallows them whole.

Scientific Evidence

tabby, white cat winking with mouth open, teeth

As mentioned above, to date there’s no conclusive scientific evidence that dry, wet or raw diets help keep your cat’s mouth and teeth healthy.

There also is no evidence that any of these diets cause dental disease or contribute to it more than others.


beef bones

“…while there is some evidence that bones, like any abrasive chewing material, can help clean teeth, the many risks of bones, including fractured teeth and potentially life-threatening injuries to the gastrointestinal tract, likely outweigh any benefits.

So while dry diets in general may not be of benefits in terms of preventing periodontal disease, this does not automatically mean that the alternatives to commercial dry foods are any better.”2Dry Pet Food and Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats“,, October 17, 2011

Dental Diets

generic man brushing tooth

Discuss your cat’s dental care with your vet before using any dental products.

If your cat has any sore spots in his mouth your vet should fix the problems before using any dental products.

Otherwise, you can cause pain and your cat won’t cooperate.

chewy food, treats, dental diet

There are now some feline dental diets that manufacturers claim help reduce plaque and tartar buildup.

Some studies have shown that there can be improvement using these products.

Dental diets consist of a larger, chewier kibble that doesn’t break apart as easily as regular kibble.

cat with wide open mouth - oral flea treatment

Your cat’s teeth sink down into it and the food rubs all tooth surfaces.

In some cases, these diets can help keep teeth from deteriorating as long as they’re the main source of food, not just given as treats.

Be sure any diet you use is complete and balanced so your cat is getting all necessary nutrients.

vet - telemedicine-laptop

The Veterinary Oral Health Council reviews the clinical studies to be sure they’re legitimate and follow the required scientific standards.

The approved diets are given the official VOHC Seal of Approval.

Here’s a list of approved dental-care diets for cats… VOHC Accepted Products for Cats

cat eating kibble from food bowl

No dental diet can take the place of regular brushing and veterinary care.

Here’s a good video about dental disease and special diets…

“What’s the BEST Prevention of Dental Disease? Which Products Work? A Veterinarian Explains!”, Vet Med Corner, October 2021

Dental Products

tabby cat on a shelf

There are many products claiming to be great dental care for cats, but are they worth the money?

To have some assurance that a product is worthwhile, look for those that have the Seal of Approval from The Veterinary Oral Health Council.

Tabby, white cat - closeup of yawning, angry open mouth

If that Seal of Approval is not on the product, don’t bother with it.

There are two categories where the Seal of Approval is given…

  • A product helps control plaque
  • A product helps control tarter
Scientific equipment in lab - veterinary medicine

A company must submit a request for review of each of their products, with evidence of their value, to qualify for the Seal of Approval.

They must include separate sets of data and analysis summaries from clinical trials if they want approval in each category.

kittens lounging together

Products approved by the VOHC are listed at “VOHC® Accepted Products for Cats“.

They include dental diets, water additives, topical gels, topical sprays, anti-plaque wipes, powder, a toothbrush/paste combination, and dental treats.

Toothpaste for cats is specially made for them… never use human toothpaste because flouride is toxic to cats.

tabby cat licking front paw

Instead use an enzymatic toothpaste for cats as listed on “VOHC® Accepted Products for Cats“.

If you use water additives, be sure you supply plain fresh water separately.

Cats won’t drink water that tastes weird and might not drink from a bowl with additives.

You don’t want your cat to get dehydrated!

How to Brush a Cat’s Teeth

person brush teeth of black cat

You’re probably wondering how in the world you can convince your cat to let your brush her teeth!

The younger your cat is when you start, the easier it is for her to accept it.

You want to make dental care a positive, calm, even enjoyable experience for both you and your cat.

So start slowly and patiently follow the simple techniques in these videos…

“How To: Brush Your Cat’s Teeth at Home”, Cats Only Veterinary Clinic, June 19, 2017
“How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth | Vet Tutorial”, Healthcare for Pets, November 2, 2016

Again, don’t use human toothpaste, only what’s made for cats.

You don’t want to poison your cat!

Discover More…

Now that you’ve learned something about your cat’s dental health, you might find other cat food topics interesting.

Check out these related pages…

Cat Food!How Is Cat Food Made?
Cat Food Companies – Which Are Best?Cat Food Recalls – What Do They Mean?
Meat By Products In Cat FoodPet Food Regulations & Oversight
Reading Cat Food LabelsHow to Feed a Cat
Cat Food & Water BowlsCat Food Puzzles
What Nutrients Do Cats Need?Are Carbs Bad for Cat?
Can Cats Drink Milk?Food for Kittens – Giving Them Good Nutrition
What Vitamins Do Cats Need?What’s the Best Cat Food?
Dry Cat Food (Kibble)Homemade Cat Food
Raw Cat Food – Good or Bad?Raw Meat Diet for Cats – Benefits vs. Risks
The Best Cat Food BrandsThe Best Kitten Food
Wet Cat FoodCat Food Allergies & Sensitivities
Big Cat Food Paying Off Vets & Other MythsFat Cats – Unhealthy or Cute?
What Does a Veterinarian Do?


Sources used on this website are either primary or secondary.

Primary sources are always preferable and have the most reliable information because they’re original and directly referenced.

Scientific abstracts and data are good examples of primary sources.

Secondary sources are weaker because they usually consist of opinions or articles that give no sources of their own. Sometimes they refer to primary sources.

When I use secondary sources, most are those with some authority, such as veterinarian or cat behaviorist books and articles.

List of Sources

Cat Teeth Cleaning Tips & Advice (Written By a Vet)” – All About Cats

Dry Pet Food and Dental Disease in Dogs and Cats”, October 17, 2011

Periodontal Disease is Hidden” by Fraser Hale, DVM, FAVD, DipAVDC, Board Certified Veterinary Dental Specialist, 2011

Pet Dental Health” – Pet Food Institute


How Is Dental Disease Treated? What About Anesthesia Free? A Veterinarian Explains COHATs“, Vet Med Corner, October 25, 2021

How To: Brush Your Cat’s Teeth at Home“, Cats Only Veterinary Clinic, June 19, 2017

How to Brush Your Cat’s Teeth | Vet Tutorial“, Healthcare for Pets, November 2, 2016

Unique Cat Dental Concerns – What Are They? How Should They Be Treated? A Vet Explains!“, Vet Med Corner, November 2021

A Veterinarian Talks About Dental Disease (Pt 1) How Does It Form? What Should You Ask Your Vet?“, Vet Med Corner, November 2021

What’s the BEST Prevention of Dental Disease? Which Products Work? A Veterinarian Explains!“, November 2021

Updated February 8, 2023

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