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Home > Cats > How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean Without Brushing – 6 Vet Approved Methods

How to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean Without Brushing – 6 Vet Approved Methods

Veterinarian examining teeth of Persian cat

Vet approved

Dr. Lindsay Bisset Photo

Written by

Dr. Lindsay Bisset

Veterinarian, BVSc

The information is current and up-to-date in accordance with the latest veterinarian research.

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Dental disease is a common problem in cats. In fact, up to 85% of cats 1 aged 3 years and older suffer from some sort of dental disease.

Dental disease can seriously affect a cat’s quality of life. Affected cats may experience pain and discomfort from infection and inflammation caused by dental disease. Dental disease can also lead to other health problems 2 by causing inflammatory or degenerative changes of the kidneys, liver, and heart. Fortunately, dental disease is largely preventable with regular dental care.

The best way to prevent most forms of dental disease in cats is to keep the teeth clean, thereby reducing the buildup of plaque and tartar on the teeth. Toothbrushing remains the most effective way to do this, however, not all cats will tolerate their teeth being brushed. Fortunately, there are other ways that you can keep your cat’s teeth clean. Let’s take a closer look.


The 6 Ways to Keep Your Cat’s Teeth Clean Without Brushing

1. Regular Veterinary Dental Checks and Professional Cleans

Vet cleaning cat teeth
image credit: Pixel-Shot, Pixabay

All cats should have their teeth examined by a vet at least once a year. This will usually take place at your pet’s annual wellness exam. For cats with a history of dental disease, checkups should happen more frequently.

Depending on the condition of your cat’s teeth, your veterinarian may advise further evaluation and dental cleaning. This will need to be performed under general anesthesia. The procedure will begin with an in-depth oral exam and intraoral X-rays to evaluate the health of the jaw and tooth roots below the gum line. In this way, diseased teeth can be identified. Thereafter, the teeth will be scaled to remove plaque and tartar above and below the gum line. In advanced dental disease, badly affected teeth may need to be extracted. Finally, the teeth will be polished to ensure a smooth surface to decrease the rate of subsequent tartar buildup.

In general, the earlier dental disease is addressed, the easier it is to treat. Don’t wait until your cat is showing signs of dental disease for a checkup. Cats will often only show signs of dental disease such as oral pain and a reduced appetite, once they have advanced disease. Advanced dental disease is more difficult to treat and often requires multiple teeth to be extracted, which may result in longer anesthetic times.

2. Diet

The type of food that your cat eats can help keep their teeth clean and maintain good overall oral health. Dry food may be better at keeping your cat’s teeth clean than wet food. Kibble has an abrasive action against the teeth while chewing which may help prevent plaque accumulation. The opposite is true for wet food. Wet food has little abrasive action and does little to prevent plaque accumulation. If your cat eats only wet food, adding some kibble into their diet may help to reduce plaque and tartar formation. Speak to your veterinarian before changing your cat’s food to ensure that a diet change is suitable for your cat.

Your vet may also recommend a specifically formulated dental diet to help reduce plaque and tartar formation. The kibble in these special diets has a specially formulated size, shape, and texture which helps clean the surface of the teeth as your pet chews. In this way, the kibble has a brushing effect and helps to reduce plaque and tartar build-up.


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3. Dental Treats

Dental treats work in the same way as the kibble in dental diets to help clean your cat’s teeth. These treats are formulated with a specific shape, size, and texture to help clean the surface of the teeth as the cat chews. They come in different flavors and often have added vitamins and minerals.

Remember that cat treats are not a complete and balanced food and should not form more than 5% of your cat’s daily energy intake.

4. Oral Gels and Sprays

Oral gels and sprays are developed to be rubbed onto your cat’s gums or sprayed into the mouth in order to inhibit the buildup of plaque and tartar. Chlorhexidine, an antiseptic that is useful in controlling bacteria in the mouth, is commonly included in oral gels and sprays. Other commonly included ingredients include essential oils and enzymes. These products should be used consistently and in combination with other teeth cleaning strategies for the best results.

5. Dental Wipes

veterinarian checks mouth of maine coon cat
Image Credit: Ermolaev Alexander, Shutterstock

Dental wipes work by wiping away plaque on the surface of the tooth. These wipes also contain ingredients such as chlorhexidine and zinc gluconate to decrease the amount of bacteria in the mouth. Although not as effective as tooth brushing, dental wipes can help prevent the development of dental disease, especially when used in combination with other forms of home dental care and regular professional teeth cleaning.

6. Water Additives

Water additives are highly concentrated solutions that can be added to a cat’s drinking water. These solutions contain enzymes and other antibacterial ingredients such as zinc gluconate, to help reduce tartar buildup. Water additives may also help to soften existing plaque, making dental diets and treats more effective at reducing existing plaque buildup in the mouth. Although water additives can form an effective part of a cat’s home dental care plan, some cats may avoid drinking the additive due to the taste and run the risk of becoming dehydrated. When using an additive in your cat’s water for the first time, carefully monitor that he or she is drinking enough water throughout the day.



Not all dental products are created equal. Some products are more effective than others at minimizing plaque and tartar buildup. When choosing a brand of dental diets, treats, oral gels and sprays, dental wipes, and water additives, it is advisable to ask your veterinarian to recommend a reputable brand of product or check that the product has met the approval of the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC). The Veterinary Oral Health Council recognizes products that meet certain standards and have gone through trials conducted according to VOHC protocols.

Regular veterinary teeth cleaning and oral exams should form the basis of your cat’s overall dental health program. Once you have selected the most suitable dental home care products for your cat with the help of your veterinarian, stick to the plan and be consistent. Home care dental products are most effective at keeping a cat’s teeth clean when used consistently and in conjunction with regular veterinary oral exams and teeth cleaning.

It’s never too late to start taking care of your cat’s teeth. Ideally, strategies to keep your cat’s teeth clean should be implemented when your cat is still a kitten. Alternatively, start immediately after a veterinary dental cleaning.

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Featured Image Credit: didesign021, Shutterstock

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