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Cat Dentistry FAQ’s

Has your cat been identified with dental (periodontal) disease, gingivitis, or cervical neck lesions (also called feline cavities, resorptive lesions or odontoclastic lesions)? Maybe, your feline family member is showing one or more of the warning signs of dental disease in cats. Below are answers to many of the questions our clients have asked us about cat dentistry at Big Creek Pet Hospital. If you still have questions after reading this article or would like to schedule a dental procedure for your pet please call us, 440-234-5831 or click the appointment button on this page.

How many teeth does a cat have?

Kittens have 26 temporary teeth that begin to erupt at about two to three weeks of age. They have 30 permanent teeth that erupt at about three to four months.

What is dental (periodontal) disease?

Dental (periodontal) disease begins when bacteria in the mouth forms plaque and tartar on the teeth. This plaque and tartar buildup can lead to gingivitis (inflammation of the teeth) and eventually periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth).







What are cervical neck lesions/feline cavities?

Feline cervical neck lesions/feline cavities are painful- cavity like lesions seen in many cats over the age of 5. Initially, they look like small “pittings” in the enamel. As they progress it will become more painful and an area of red gum tissue will commonly develop. In time, the cavity will penetrate the pulp canal, the crown will fracture, and bacteria from the oral cavity will have access to the cat’s tooth, bone, and blood stream.

What are the warning signs my cat may have dental problems?

  1. Bad Breath
  2. Discolored Teeth
  3. Swollen, Red Gums
  4. Loose or broken teeth
  5. Poor Appetite

click here to learn more about the 5 Signs Your Cat Needs Dental Care

What do dental exams reveal?

One of our medical team will look at your pet’s mouth for signs of dental problems. They will grade your dog’s mouth and give one of the following grades. Cracked and/or broken teeth or other problems will be addressed separately.

Dental Assessment Levels
Level Photo Description

Healthy Cat Teeth

There were no visible signs of dental disease in your pet. Please do Home Dental Care to protect your cat’s teeth. Call us if your cat shows any of the 5 Signs Your Cat Needs Dental Care

Level 1 Feline Dental

Pets requiring a Level 1 Dental have a minimum amount of plaque and tartar on their teeth. There is early signs of periodontal disease and generally there are no teeth that need to be extracted

Level 2 Feline Dental

Level 2 Dentals are a bit more involved. There is usually mild periodontal disease present. The gums are often inflamed and/or swollen. The breath may be getting bad. Sometimes there are unhealthy teeth that need to be extracted. (Notice inflamed gums)

Level 3 Feline Dental

Cats requiring Level 3 Dentals generally have bad breath, caused by bacterial build-up on the teeth. These pets may also exhibit signs of a sore mouth, including reluctance to eat and lethargy. There is moderate periodontal disease present and there will be unhealthy teeth that may need to be extracted. This procedure requires pre-surgical bloodwork. Antibiotics may be prescribed for your dog. (arrow is pointing to exposed root)

Level 4 Severe Feline

Level 4 is the highest dental level, meaning the pet’s mouth is in very poor condition. Often these pets will exhibit signs of illness, including not eating, vomiting/diarrhea, fever and lethargy. There is severe periodontal disease present, and multiple teeth will need to be extracted. Pre-surgical bloodwork is required for this procedure and overnight hospitalization may be needed. Antibiotics will be prescribed for your cat.

Please note a more thorough exam will be done during an actual procedure while your pet is under anesthesia and may uncover problems not seen during the initial exam.

Will my cat need dental x-rays?

Your cat’s mouth will be carefully examined while anesthetized. If the doctor is concerned about a particular area x-rays will be done using a digital dental x-ray unit similar to your dentist’s. X-Rays are most likely needed for pets with Level 2, 3, or 4 Dental Disease.

Cat Dental X-rays


Normal Cat X-Rays


Resorptive Lesions In a Cat X-Rays

What are the consequences of dental disease if not addressed? 

Your pet may experience any or all of the following:

  • Pain
  • Loss of appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Behavior issues
  • Damage to internal organs (heart, liver, & kidneys)
  • More prone to getting sick
  • Lower life expectancy

Once periodontal disease starts, the degenerative changes cannot be reversed

Why should I have my pet’s teeth professionally cleaned?

If your pet has been identified with dental disease, a professional dental cleaning under anesthesia is needed to arrest the deterioration process. This is because problems are occurring below the gum line and cannot be properly addressed otherwise.

What happens when my pet has a dental procedure?

After your pet has been admitted to our hospital, they are examined and prepared for anesthesia. Anesthesia is used to keep your pet sleeping during the dental procedure. The teeth are cleaned with an ultrasonic dental scaler (similar to your dentist)  and the areas around the teeth are carefully examined for disease. It is important that tartar and plaque are removed from areas below the gum line to eliminate periodontal disease and subsequent loss of teeth. Loose or damaged teeth are x-rayed and extracted only if necessary. Next, the teeth are polished and rinsed. Finally, your pet is observed until they wake from the anesthesia.

What can I do to prevent bad breath, tartar buildup, and tooth loss in my pet?

You can improve your dog’s oral hygiene by following some or all of these procedures:

  1. Provide hard food for your pet to chew.
  2. Provide a balanced diet for your cat.
  3. Have your pet’s teeth examined regularly. ( Call us if you see any of the 5 Signs Your Cat Needs Dental Care)
  4. Brush your pet’s teeth regularly, between 3-5 times a week, depending on your pet’s age and oral conditions. Ask us about other methods to supplement teeth brushing.

What are the risks of anesthesia (especially for senior pets)?

At Big Creek Pet Hospital, we use a very safe gas inhalant anesthesia and have done thousands of successful procedures, however, there is always a risk of complications when general anesthesia is used. Before the procedure your pet will receive an exam. We will assess whether your pet is healthy enough to undergo anesthesia. Pre-anesthesia bloodwork is important to complement the exam and tell us how various internal organs and the blood are doing. Senior dogs (dogs 7 and older) are required to receive pre-anesthesia bloodwork. During the procedure, your pet will be monitored with state-of-the-art equipment.

Why is a dental cleaning for my pet more expensive than my dental cleaning?

The actual cost of cleaning and polishing your pet’s teeth is very similar (if not less expensive) than a person’s cleaning. The major difference is that anesthesia, and the items associated with it, must be used.

Is financing available?

Financing is available through CareCredit. They offer 6 months same as cash. (you can apply online at Please contact us if you have questions.

Are advanced dental treatments available?

There are veterinary dental specialists that are able to do advanced dental treatments. If your pet needs a crown, root canal, or other advanced treatment we will be happy to refer you and your pet. Click here for a list of Veterinary Dental Specialists

Need to make an appointment for your pet? Call us, (440)234-5831 or request an appointment by clicking on the Appointment icon below.

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