How to perform a conscious oral examination on a cat and what to look for
Diseases of the oral cavity are a common presentation in veterinary clinics. Veterinary nurses play a vital role in recognising issues that need veterinary intervention. Although teeth pay a big part in the oral examination, they are not the only structure to look at. This article aims to show you how to perform a good conscious oral examination on a cat, and what signs to look for as it involves more than just lifting the lips.
In many practices, nurses will carry out dental checks during nurse clinics. It is important to remember that a conscious oral examination will not give a full picture of the cat's oral health, but it will provide a clue that all is not well. Before performing the examination, there are some points that the registered veterinary nurse (RVN) needs to consider, to ensure they get the most out of the oral examination. It is important to remember that there are other structures in the oral cavity that will need examining other than just the cat's teeth. The oral cavity includes the tongue, the teeth, the salivary glands (buccal molar and lingual molar), hard and soft palate, the mucosa (labial, alveolar and sublingual), the lingual frenulum and the gingiva, all of which can be affected by illness or injury. Not all cats will allow visualisation of all oral structures, especially the sublingual mucosa and the lingual frenulum, but it is important to check these if the cat allows. They will also need to feel for any enlargement of the facial and pre-scapular lymph nodes as this can be a sign that the cat is fighting an infection.