Ensuring your cat's teeth receive proper dental care is essential to your feline friend's health. If your kitty's teeth are not cleaned regularly, gingivitis and other gum diseases can threaten your cat's longevity. Our Middlesex vets offer facts on the condition.

What is gingivitis in cats?

Inflammation of the gum or gingiva, which surrounds the teeth, is known as gingivitis. This disease may be moderate or severe and can progress to the point where your cat may have trouble eating and grow very uncomfortable. 

To remedy the condition, a teeth cleaning under anesthesia will be needed. Just like in people, plaque - an accumulation of debris, dead skin cells, mucus, food and germs - can build up on the teeth and contribute to this disease. 

Signs of Gingivitis in Cats

A cat with gingivitis may show these common symptoms:

  • Drooling
  • Calculi/tartar
  • Plaque buildup on teeth surfaces 
  • Red or swollen gums, especially around the inner cheek area
  • Bad breath 
  • Difficulty picking up food or toys 
  • difficulty eating or not eating at all  

Causes of Gingivitis in Cats

Common causes of gingivitis in cats include:

  • Old age
  • Soft food
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Bad dental care
  • Crowded teeth 
  • FeLV (Feline Leukemia Virus)

Diagnosis of Gingivitis in Cats

Since cats are so adept at hiding their pain, they may not show any signs of discomfort even if they are in severe oral pain. Even cats who are eating normally and are active can have significant dental diseases. Bringing your cat in for their annual routine exam is essential to the detection of dental disease, as a vet is often able to identify signs of conditions while observing an animal and checking for symptoms listed above.

How to Treat Cat Gingivitis

For cats with gingivitis, treatment focuses on eliminating accumulated plaque and dental calculus, as well as treating or extracting destabilized and/or diseased teeth. To address any inflammatory dental disease, routine tooth cleanings and dental X-rays should be conducted under anesthetic.

For cats suffering from stomatitis to have a comfortable mouth, their teeth are frequently extracted by a veterinarian if it is called for.

The frequency of dental checkups will be determined by the degree of periodontal disease in your cat. If your adult cat's teeth are overcrowded, or if it has baby (deciduous) teeth, your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction. Your veterinarian will show you how to clean your cat's teeth, and you should schedule follow-up exams.

Maintaining Your Cat's Teeth

Cat-specific toothbrushes and toothpaste are available for purchase at pet supply stores and can help avoid gingivitis. Brushing should be introduced gradually and consistently so that cats become accustomed to it.

Get your cat familiar with toothbrushes and toothpaste

Leave snacks on the counter near the toothpaste and toothbrush so cats can associate something positive with them. You can also place a dab of toothpaste for them to lick off your finger so they get accustomed to it.

Get your cat used to you touching their mouth

Choose a dental treat your cat enjoys and place it on its canine teeth. As they become accustomed to it, start placing it deeper and deeper into their mouth, on their teeth. This gets them used to you touching their mouth and makes it easier for you to introduce the toothpaste.


With your cat used to the toothbrush, toothpaste, and you touching their mouth, it should be easier to brush their teeth. Brush along the gum line for about 15 to 30 seconds, only on the outside of the teeth, and reward them with a treat afterward.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Are you concerned about your dog's oral health? We provide canine dental care and can answer any questions. Contact our Middlesex vets to schedule a dental checkup.