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Cats are mammals as we are, so their teeth react to plaque the way ours do. Plaque is a buildup of food debris and bacteria that can eat away at tooth enamel. If it isn’t properly washed or brushed away, plaque can react with mineral deposits and turn into tartar. Dark yellow or brown accumulations on teeth provide evidence of tartar. Once established, it can be very difficult to remove.
Dental health is difficult enough for us humans to maintain, even with our regular brushings with high-tech toothpaste and drinking of water treated with fluoride. It’s no wonder that so many cats suffer from advanced tooth decay -- requiring extractions and even antibiotics if deep infections set in. Regular, professional teeth cleanings for your cat at its veterinary office, along with your at-home cat tooth brushing, help to prevent both plaque and tartar buildup.
What you give your cat to eat and drink can help too. Fresh, clean water helps your cat to naturally wash away oral debris. Some manufacturers now offer water additives for cats that they say improve dental health. Having a water fountain -- with circulating water -- helps by encouraging your curious feline to drink. These fountains, available at most pet stores, also aid in maintaining water freshness.
The cat food you select is equally important. High-quality foods for cats that have minimal fillers and premium ingredients help to prevent bacteria from forming, as bacteria tend to love sugar and carbohydrates. The best dry cat food manufacturers formulate their products so that the shape and crunch factor go a long way towards preventing the meals from adhering to your cat’s teeth. “Adult formula” foods for such brands tend to feature this built-in tooth protector.
But tooth care for cats should begin from day one. If you’re vigilant, you will save money and protect your cat from a lot of painful extractions and other health complications later in life.
Jennifer Viegas is the managing editor of The Daily Cat. She is a journalist for Discovery News, the news service for the Discovery Channel, and has written more than 20 books on animals, health and other science-related topics.