How Much is Cat Teeth Cleaning?

Pet care & safety
An owner is brushing the cats teeth to prevent future dental costs.

Is your cat's smile hiding a secret? You might be shocked to learn that dental disease is one of the most common health problems I see in my feline patients. In fact, more than half of cats older than the age of three have some level of dental disease.  

There are several complex factors that predispose cats to dental problems including breed, oral flora, diet, and genetics. Dental disease can lead to pain, infection, and tooth loss. And that’s not all. Elevated levels of bacteria in the mouth can also enter the blood stream and put excess stress on the kidney, liver, heart, and immune system, creating additional health problems and affecting your cat’s life expectancy. This is why dental care and cleanings are so important for our feline companions – keeping their teeth healthy and their overall health in purr-fect harmony.  

Have you ever wondered, “How much is cat dental cleaning?”  Well, you're not alone. Many cat owners are curious about the cost of this important procedure. 

The truth is, the cost of a cat dental cleaning can vary depending on a few factors, like the severity of your cat's dental problems, where you live, and the type of anesthesia used. But in general, you can expect to pay anywhere from $900 to $2000 for a cat dental cleaning. 

Don't let the sticker shock scare you away from this essential care. Keeping your cat's teeth healthy is crucial for their overall health and well-being. The good news is that there are ways to make the cost of cat dental cleaning more manageable. 

In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the world of cat dental cleaning, exploring the reasons why it's essential, the factors that influence its cost, and the steps you can take to prepare your feline friend for the procedure. We'll also provide insights into the procedure itself and offer tips on how to care for your cat afterward. So, whether you're a seasoned cat owner or a first-time pet parent, this guide will equip you with the knowledge you need to make informed decisions about your cat's dental health. 

Common Dental Issues in Cats 

Dental disease in cats starts very similarly to humans, with plaque and calculus/tartar. If you have ever woken up in the morning to feel a slightly slimy film on your teeth, what you are feeling is plaque. Plaque is made up of bacteria and the film it lives in which adheres to all the surfaces of the mouth as it accumulates. When the plaque absorbs minerals from the saliva, it forms a hardened shell referred to as tartar or calculus. You can think of this as a “coral reef” that the bacteria like to live in. While plaque can be easily removed with brushing, tartar adheres to the tooth surface and is much harder to remove. When plaque and/or tartar get close to the gum it sneaks up underneath and causes the tissues to become red, painful, and irritated. This is called gingivitis

Periodontal Disease 

While gingivitis alone is uncomfortable for your cat, it can also lead to the other two most common dental conditions– periodontal disease and tooth resorption. Periodontal disease occurs when the bacteria that has snuck under the gums starts damaging the tissues and bone that keep the tooth rooted in the jaw and the nerve and blood vessels that keep it alive. This can lead to deeper infection, severe pain, abscess formation under around the root of the tooth. This is also when bacteria like to enter the blood stream and travel to other areas of the body. Once the damage to a tooth’s tissue reaches a certain point, removal of the tooth (extraction) or a root canal procedure needs to be performed. 

Tooth Resorption 

The other consequence is something called tooth resorption. This process is unique to cats and the cause is not yet understood. For some reason, the presence of bacteria on the crown (the part of the tooth that you can see in the mouth) triggers the body to attack and break down the material that makes up the tooth, leading to tiny holes in the teeth. This is very painful as it leaves the nerve endings in the tooth open to constant irritation and once this process occurs it cannot be fixed, and the tooth needs to be removed.  

Symptoms of Dental Disease        

In my experience, cats tend to be stoic about dental pain. This may be because it occurs over time and the cat becomes acclimated to the discomfort, or just because their desire to eat overrides the pain. They often do not show any signs that there is anything wrong until the disease is quite advanced and considerable damage has already occurred. You may notice some signs: 

  • Oral bleeding 

  • Excessive drooling 

  • Decreased appetite 

  • Aggression or pawing/rubbing of the face 

  • Bad breath 

  • Chewing on only one side of the mouth 

  • Dropping small amounts of food on the floor while eating  

These are not always so easy to notice and why it is especially important that your cat be evaluated annually by a veterinarian who will evaluate the state of your cats' teeth and identify signs of dental disease sooner. By taking care of your cat's dental health, you're not just preventing pain and discomfort, but also investing in a lifetime of happy purrs and a smile that could melt the coldest of hearts.  

Cat Dental Cleaning Process 

When I recommend a dental procedure, I usually describe the process as being quite like what happens when you or I go to the dentist. The first step is to scale off all the tartar and plaque adhered to the tooth surface. Next, x-rays of the teeth are performed to get a full picture of the health of the tooth. These images are then paired with a full oral examination to determine if any additional dental treatments are needed. If any extractions are necessary, they are usually performed at this point. Afterwards, or if no treatments are necessary, the teeth are polished to remove microscopic scrapes created by scaling. If this does not occur, bacteria will very quickly bind to these crevices leading to the rapid recurrence of plaque and tartar.  

While this may all seem quite reasonable, the most important aspect of this procedure is that it must be done under general anesthesia. Cats do not like to “say ah” and would never allow us to treat their teeth safely and thoroughly while awake. As you may recall from your own cleanings, there is also a lot of water involved in the process and the placement of a breathing tube is essential to protect your cat's airway from accidentally inhaling this fluid or other gross material which can have severe consequences. While anesthesia is understandably scary, your veterinarian will walk you through the process, answer any questions you may have and perform testing prior to the procedure to help mitigate this risk.  

A cat at the vet getting its teeth cleaned to prevent future dental costs.

Ensuring a Smooth Recovery: Caring for Your Cat After Dental Cleaning 

Upon returning home, provide your cat with a tranquil and cozy environment where they can rest and recuperate. The anesthetic effects may linger for the first 24 hours, making your cat feel drowsy and less active. Designating a quiet space in their favorite room or creating a comfortable nest will allow them to rest undisturbed. 

Ensure your cat has unrestricted access to fresh, clean water. Anesthesia can lead to dehydration, making it crucial to replenish lost fluids. Keep a bowl of water easily accessible at all times and monitor their intake closely.  

For the first few days after the dental cleaning, opt for soft food options to minimize discomfort and ease the chewing process. Hard kibble or crunchy treats may cause soreness and irritation, so stick to softer, easily digestible foods. This temporary dietary adjustment will allow your cat's gums and teeth to heal properly. 

Closely monitor your cat for any signs of infection. While some drooling or slight bleeding from the mouth is normal, excessive or prolonged symptoms may indicate an underlying issue. If you notice any redness, swelling, or discharge from your cat's mouth, consult your veterinarian promptly. 

During the initial recovery period, expect your cat to exhibit some temporary changes in their behavior. They may be less playful and active than usual, preferring to rest and conserve energy. This is a natural response to the anesthesia and the dental procedures. As the effects wear off, your cat should gradually return to their normal energy levels and playful spirit. With proper care and attention, your feline friend will soon be back to their usual playful, affectionate self, their dental health restored and their purr radiating with renewed vitality. 

Cost of Cat Dental Cleaning 

As you might imagine, cat dental cleaning cost can vary significantly depending on several factors. As with many things, where you live, and the local cost of living will affect the price of goods and services in that area. Another big variable is the level of dental disease present at the time of the procedure. Additional treatments usually have an additional cost, and many hospitals charge for anesthesia based on the length of the procedure. The worse the disease, the longer it takes. This is not only because more teeth take more time, but also because the more diseased the gums are, the more delicate and difficult they become to work with.  

This is why it is often recommended for cats to have cleanings performed annually. It has been shown that it is safer for a cat to have more frequent but shorter periods of anesthesia—reducing the amount of disease that can accumulate between procedures reduces the amount of time they spend anesthetized each time. A shorter procedure is also more affordable. Cats with severe oral disease may require more frequent treatments, but this is less common, and your veterinarian will discuss this with you if necessary.        

 As I mentioned above there can be some variation, but the average cost of a dental cleaning is anywhere from $900 to $2000. Most practices will be happy to give you an estimate, and this will often come with a range, as we can only guess what will be needed until we perform a full oral exam under anesthesia. This may seem costly, but I would caution any pet owner that any estimate significantly lower than this could indicate a lack of one or more safety measures necessary to ensure your cat receives the most up to date care and monitoring.  

Pet Insurance Coverage    

Your cat might not be complaining about their pearly whites, but dental problems can lead to discomfort, pain, and even serious health issues down the road. Regular dental cleanings are crucial for keeping your cat's mouth healthy and preventing these issues from popping up.  

While cat insurance doesn’t typically cover routine dental cleanings, it can be a lifesaver if your cat experiences a dental illness or accident, such as gingivitis or a tooth fracture. Imagine having to deal with those hefty vet bills without any financial backup! 

Dental disease can also be considered a pre-existing condition, so you’ll want to make sure to get insurance coverage before you start running into issues! Embrace Pet Insurance also offers optional, non-insurance pet wellness plans that can reimburse you for these predictable expenses. 

Don't let your cat's dental health be a gamble. Embrace Pet Insurance offers a variety of plans that can provide peace of mind and financial protection for your furry friend's oral health. 

Home & Maintenance Dental Care   

While genetics plays a significant role in whether your cat develops and dental issues, there are things that can be done at home to help with tooth management. Tooth brushing is the gold standard for dental maintenance, and it is surprising how many cats will take to the process easily. It is important to note that this needs to be done every 1-2 days to make a significant difference. If that is not attainable, dental diets are the next best thing. They contain specially shaped kibble that help clean the teeth as your cat bites into them and are usually very palatable. There are also several other dental products like dental wipes, gels, water additives, and treats that can help reduce the plaque on teeth. We recommend visiting the Veterinary Oral Health Council for a complete list of products that are recommended by veterinary dentists.  

Dental care is particularly important to your cat’s overall health and dental cleanings are a valuable component of dental maintenance. Cleaning regularly can help catch and manage issues before they cause significant pain or more permanent damage. There are also many products out there that can help with tooth maintenance at home and can be easily incorporated into your routine. As they say, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

Happy cat with clean teeth.

Smile Bright, Purr Strong with Clean Cat Teeth 

While the cost of cat dental cleaning may seem like a hurdle to overcome, it's a worthwhile investment in your cat's well-being and happiness. Regular dental care can help prevent painful and costly dental problems down the road, saving you money and heartache in the long run. 

At Embrace Pet Insurance, we understand the importance of your cat's dental health and are here to help you safeguard their smile. We offer a variety of pet insurance plans that can provide financial protection for dental illnesses and accidents. While we can help you budget for routine cleanings through the optional add-on wellness plan, the peace of mind of knowing your cat is covered for unexpected dental issues is invaluable. 

By taking care of your cat's dental health today, you're ensuring a lifetime of happy purrs, playful antics, and unconditional love. Don't let dental issues dim your cat's bright smile or disrupt your cherished bond. Make your cat's dental health a top priority and watch as their purrs grow stronger and their smile shines brighter.