Teeth grinding, or bruxism, is a common yet worrying behavior your cat may exhibit. One of the main reasons bruxism is worrying is it can be caused by an array of different things, ranging from anxiety to serious medical conditions.
At the least, teeth grinding will wear away at your cat's teeth and could damage their temporomandibular joint (TMJ), causing problems later in life. So why do cats grind their teeth? And what can you do to stop your cat from grinding their teeth? Here's the low-down.
The Root of the Behavior
Bruxism is characterized by a cat (or dog) rubbing their top and bottom teeth together in a side-to-side motion. The most common cause of bruxism is a dental issue. This is usually an oral cavity, causing your cat discomfort.
Bruxism can be caused by a variety of other more serious dental problems, including tooth resorption. Tooth resorption is the loss of dentin around one or more teeth, resulting in tooth loss. It's a common condition, affecting around 75% of felines over the age of five. Other possible causes include inflammatory gum disease and ulcers.
Another possible reason your cat grinds their teeth is due to abnormal teeth alignment. Also known as malocclusion, this condition causes friction between a cat's teeth, which may lead to grinding. Malocclusion is most common in purebreds like Persians, whose short faces often cause tooth misalignment.
It's also possible for bruxism to be caused by psychological factors; however, this is less common. Stress and anxiety can also cause tooth grinding, similar to humans.
Cats have also been known to exhibit teeth grinding when they experience abnormal pain, ranging from pancreatitis to gastrointestinal ulcers to cancer, making it difficult to diagnose the cause of bruxism quickly.
If you notice your cat frequently grinds their teeth, drools, and has a loss of appetite, contact a vet immediately to ensure this isn't a symptom of something more severe. You should contact your vet anyway to ensure your cat doesn't have any dental or health issues later in life.
Encouraging the Behavior
If you notice your cat grinding their teeth, consult your vet, who'll perform a Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment and Treatment (COHAT) to discover the cause. Approximately 85% of causes of bruxism can be diagnosed on an initial oral examination. Otherwise, a CT scan or an X-ray may be necessary.
There are also some lifestyle changes you can make to ensure your cat doesn't develop bruxism. You can attempt to brush your cat's teeth once a day; however, this is easier said than done and may require some training.
You can also speak to your vet about adjusting your cat's diet to ensure it promotes healthy teeth. You should also consider taking your cat for an annual dental check-up so your vet can clean your cat's teeth and check for lumps.
Other Solutions and Considerations
If you're unsure of the cause of your cat's teeth grinding, ensure they're happy at home so you can rule out stress and anxiety as the causes. Make sure your cat has a quiet room with low foot traffic where they can go to escape when feeling overstimulated.
You should also ensure your cat has a quiet space for their litter box and that their food and water are in separate rooms. Playing with your pet more regularly and giving them lots of attention may also help reduce stress levels (for you and your feline!).
Due to the variety of causes of bruxism, you should contact your vet if it's an ongoing issue. It's likely caused by a simple oral or dental condition but can be symptomatic of something more serious.
Your vet will be able to tell you the cause and the best treatment option. You can help prevent bruxism by regularly and frequently brushing your cat's teeth. Unsure if you need to go to a vet for your cat's teeth grinding? Contact a vet 24/7 through Wag! for professional advice.
Written by Adam Lee-Smith
Veterinary reviewed by:
Published: 05/18/2021, edited: 05/19/2021