Rebecca sent me this question....
Great topic! Many people seem to forget that cats can get dental tartar and periodontal disease just like dogs. I've seen far too many cases of severe gingivitis and infection in cats that are obviously painful and having difficulty eating. It's a disorder that can be prevented or at least improved.
When there is significant tartar and gingivitis the only solution is to have a professional dental cleaning performed. Once the calculus is hard enough nothing will get it off other than scaling and cleaning, similar to what we have done at our dentists. However, there are things that can be used to prevent such accumulation either when the pet is young or after a dental cleaning.
Cats are especially tricky because they tend to be far less tolerant of brushing and generally being messed with than dogs are. They fight us more and can potentially even do more damage if they really get upset. However, even adult cats can be acclimated to having their teeth brushed, which is the gold standard of dental care. Start with just gently lifting her lips and looking at her teeth a little every day, getting her used to this kind of exam. Give her the taste of a cat-safe toothpaste and let her lick it off our finger. Once she sees this as a treat, start to smear it on her lips and teeth. Gradually you should be able to work up to full brushing.
There are numerous products on the market that claim to help with dental tartar, but not all of them live up to the claim. I try to direct people to the Veterinary Oral Health Council, which helps educate pet owners about dental care. There is great information on that site, but my favorite section is the list of products that carry the VOHC seal of approval. This seal means that independent veterinary dental specialists have evaluated the claims of a product and found them to be effective. There are several diets, treats, sprays, and water additives on their list. While this is not necessarily an all-inclusive list, it certainly covers enough variety of products that anyone should be able to find something they can use for their cat (or dog!).
So Rebecca, I'd recommend checking out the link and see if you can use one of these products to make dental care easier.