We humans have dental checkups once or twice a year because we know addressing issues as they arise is easier and less expensive than waiting. The same goes for our cats. It's essential to care for their dental health, too. But some people don't think cats can get cavities or the like and often postpone their preventative dental care.
The truth is, cats don't get cavities - like humans. Ours is the result of decay. You might say cats get "holes" in their teeth, but they are caused by tooth resorption. That means the cat's dentin has eroded. If you notice your cat having oral spasms or trembling, there's a good chance his is suffering from tooth resorption. He may also go off his food but salivate more. Veterinary experts say this condition occurs in 20 to 40 percent of cats, primarily those age five and older.
Specialists at Blue Pearl (cited below) say tooth resorption is "commonly seen at or below the gum line, these 'cat cavities' or 'neck lesions' are now termed FORLs or feline odontoclastic resorption lesions. FORLs often lead to shearing off of the teeth at the gumline and are very painful."
If left untreated, the crown can break, and the veterinarian will have no choice but to remove the tooth or teeth involved. While tooth resorption is seen primarily in cats, dogs and humans can develop it, too. Unfortunately, there isn't a cure or a way to prevent this condition. However, dental issues in all animals can be detected early by annual checkups and Xrays. In addition, daily brushing and constant vigilance for problems will help your cat maintain good dental health throughout his life.
Brushing your feline's pearly whites at home might not be so easy. Of course, it's best to start the brushing regime when they are kittens, but you may be able to entice older cats with, say, tuna-favored toothpaste. If brushing is out of the question, do some online research for natural water additives, dental chews, or special diets that can provide similar benefits to brushing and won't leave both you and your cat frazzled.
VCA Animal Hospitals
Canadian Veterinary Medical Association
Cat Friendly Homes