Cats - Dental Work?

My vet keeps pushing dental care for my cat. . . never done that before. The price for feline dental cleaning is a couple thousand dollars. Not something I would usually do.

What are some experiences that you guys have had with this? Does your vet offer dental work? Have you thought about it?

Maybe other Dopers will chime in… my vet pushes this, too. It’s probably good for the cat just like teeth cleaning is good for dogs.

BUT: I’ve had many, many cats over the years. One time I did take the doc up on teeth cleaning, and that cat’s heart stopped during the procedure. She was an adult but far from “elderly.” They were able to revive her, but since then I’ve declined the teeth cleaning. I believe it’s the anesthesia that’s the risky part.

It would be different if there were some disease or injury that needed tending to. But routine cleaning-- I won’t do it.

Others MMV.

We used to take our cats to a vet that was constantly pushing dental stuff, and for a while we did it, and spent a lot of money on it. Then we switched to another vet that was closer to us who said that other vet was full of shit.

It’s not that they don’t need dental care, but regular cleanings and treatments probably cause more issues than they solve. Going to the vet for any reason is extremely stressful for most cats. My cats, at least.

We had an outdoor cat (i.e. she was feral and we fed her and she finally allowed one of us to pet her and hold her sometimes). We had her kittens adopted and had her spayed and then continued feeding her. After a few years, she started eating less, and gradually less. We didn’t know what was wrong, maybe thought it was premature aging from the stress of outdoor living or something (she absolutely would not come inside and anyway I’m allergic). She started looking worse and having less energy, and we finally took her to the vet. Turns out her teeth (gums, really) were so bad she couldn’t eat even soft food, and she had been slowly starving. I don’t remember exactly what they proposed to do with her teeth, way beyond cleaning anyway. and it was going to cost about $4K, with a poor chance of the cat thriving afterwards. She was in such bad shape that we decided to have her put to sleep instead.

So apparently you do need to pay attention to the health of your cat’s teeth, presumably even indoor cats. Whether there is anything you can feed them that will reduce or eliminate gum disease (like milkbone for dogs?), or any other option besides the vet cleaning the teeth, I don’t know.

I have had cats a various times in my life, and was never told to clean their teeth. Perhaps because they ate dry food. My dog eats mostly dry food, but the vet asked me to brush his teeth daily. I didn’t like that idea so she suggested we try the dentastix products instead, and the problem with his teeth went away. He gets some detastix chews at night before bed and eating them cleans his teeth. Perhaps they have something similar for cats.

A friend of ours had a cat with severe dental disease that caused pain and interfered with her eating. He took her to a dental specialist who extracted all her teeth. The day after surgery she began eating voraciously.

Soft food, I presume?

The prices seems high to me. We paid $700 for a tooth extraction, neutering, lumpectomy, cleaning, additional shots, nail clipping, and the general checkup before all that for my dog.

Is cleaning cat teeth that much harder? They can knock the cat out, right?

No, kibble! He fed her canned food for about a week post-op, but the cat never really liked canned food. He offered kibble and she was very happy. Many cats bolt their food.

My cat Sagan is turning 17 February 1st. When she was about 8 I took her to the vet because all of a sudden she lost her meow. Her mouth moved like she was meowing, but no sound. It turned out she had some infected teeth that needed to be removed and the infections were causing drainage into her throat that affected her voice. She had about 5 teeth removed, but recovered very well. About 3 years later, she had more issues with her teeth, and needed another dental treatment. I was worried because of her age, but she made it through just fine. This time all but 1 of her teeth had to be removed. I was pretty sad about this, but the day after the procedure I saw her curled up in my room and she was purring like crazy and clearly very content and happy. She must have been in a lot of pain, which was now gone. She has been just fine since (aside from hyperthyroid which is very common in older cats). She eats kibble just fine, loves treats, and eats a nice plate of pate every night.

The vet explained to me that some cats have hyper aggressive immune systems that can attack their own teeth as if they were foreign bodies. Remove the teeth and the issue there is gone. A positive of cats with this type of immune system is they rarely get cancer because their body is so aggressive in eliminating anything it considers foreign. So for cats like mine, it’s definitely worth it because they can live long happy lives without teeth, but rotten teeth can badly harm their organs and cause much worse issues and even death.


I’ve had a cat who needed a tooth removed and the rest cleaned while they were at it; but it didn’t cost anywhere near $2000.

I’ve had vets recommend routine teeth cleaning; but haven’t usually had it done unless either the teeth were getting really bad, or there was some other reason for the cat to be under anaesthesia and the amount of stress/time required to be anaesthetized wasn’t so great that adding a cleaning on to it seemed inadvisable. And again it didn’t cost 2K.

Mine eat both dry and canned food; partly because I think that eating some dry does help with their teeth.

I’ll have to look into that. I said “mmm hmm” and took the toothbrush the vet gave me, but in practice, there’s a dog and four cats, it ain’t gonna happen.

The dog does get a Milkbone every night. That may be doing the job. He loves it.

Our family dog (ca. 1970-1986) had a full mouth extraction a year or so before he died. My brother had picked him up from the vet and told our parents, “Good news, the dog’s fine. Bad news, dogs have 42 teeth.”

One of my cats had a vet-recommended cleaning, and at the time, probably about 20 years ago, it was $20 for the cleaning and $200 for the anesthesia. She was also in a VERY bad mood for a couple days afterwards.

I have only had one cat (out of 9) who had a dental problem and needed teeth removed. Sadly, he also had mouth cancer and passed not a year later.

Cats can have major tooth issues. I settled on making sure my indoor cats get a physical every other year if they have not had to visit the vet for other reasons. Covid times have messed up that schedule and they both need to go in for a routine checkup now. I ask that their mouths be inspected, but if they don’t have dental problems, I turn down the advice for a cleaning. They have to put cats under for a cleaning. In addition to freaking out an already anxious cat, I don’t want them to face the risks of anesthesia for anything less than necessary surgery.

But that’s me. You do what you are comfortable with and can afford.

Science Diet sells a dry cat food that supposedly provides dental benefits. I started my cats on it after the vet started making very expensive predictions about one of my cat’s teeth. It‘s $34 for 7 lbs, so I mix it 3:1 with another dry kibble (1 part Science Diet Oral Care for cats to 3 parts other quality dry kibble).

You could buy lots of Oral Care for cats kibble for $6000 and end step around surgery risks. The vet recommended the Science Diet food to me, I have it auto ship from Chewy.

Mine won’t eat it. Worth a try, though.

ETA: They won’t eat the specifically dental version. They’ll eat the regular version Science Diet.

No. I had a tooth extraction done just a few years ago for an 15+ year old cat so they had to be extra careful with anesthesia monitoring and it was 300-odd dollars. The poor girl had no more pain eating and lived another 18 months so it was money well spent.

As for the OP, my current cats’ vet wants me to brush Poe’s teeth (I’ve since learned that the pink gums she worries about are not usually indicative of gum disease in Maine Coons under age 3, and stop being bright pink when they’re a bit older), but that’s all. They didn’t even try to sell me the cat toothpaste and brush!

Cats be weird. Mine pick out the uber expensive Oral Care niblets and leave behind the plebeian pellets. When they get hungry enough they eat those.

I have far more experience with feline dental issues than I would like. I’ve also had five vets over the years, and the only time any of them has recommended dental cleaning, it’s been because of incipient gum or tooth problems. I’d be reluctant to get a cat’s teeth cleaned in the absence of gum or tooth problems, but if there are problems, it is good to address them before they harm the cat’s overall health.

Our household has two cats now, aged approximately 5 and 8. The younger one has had his teeth cleaned once, when the vet removed a damaged tooth; the older one had resorptive lesions and we ended up having all but her front 8 incisors removed a few years ago (her temperament improved permanently once her gums healed, and she eats hard or soft food just fine).

When my dog needed his teeth cleaned, the vet wanted $800+ dollars for it. I called around and found a place about 45 minutes outside the city that charged well under $200. Call around and see what you can find. I think I just googled “low-cost pet teeth cleaning” or something similar. I see that same place now charges $89 for a cat and $89-$119 for a dog, and I live in a fairly high cost-of-living region.

I just looked - there’s also a fancy pet supply shop down the street from me that offers anesthesia-free teeth cleaning (and exam) for dogs and cats for $225.

Yes and yes. The problem is a.) cat teeth are fragile and thus easier to damage when removing dental scale, it’s tougher than working on humans or larger dogs and b.) the fact you generally have to knock them out is part of the problem as the anesthesia itself can be tricky. More cautious vets like to have a full blood workup and even an ECG before knocking them out, which of course can seriously inflate the price .

Dry food doesn’t really help cats much in this regard, as unlike dogs cats don’t chew a great deal. A couple crunches to beak down chunks and down it goes - cat teeth are designed for puncturing and shearing, not grinding.

It does seems to be heavily influenced by genetics. I’ve had cats with very little in the way of periodontal problems and cats with utterly filthy mouths that built up plaque and inflamed gums very quickly. For cats prone to plaque buildup cleaning the teeth regularly at home is recommended, but easier said than done for many of them. Not treating periodontal disease can lead to very real complications just like in humans, but yeah if you have a cat with naturally bad teeth it can get pricey. And at a certain point elderly cats (particularly with bum tickers) may find anesthesia as bad or worse than the cure.