Why Feline Dental Care is Important
Cats and dogs have their share of differences, but they can both experience periodontal disease and tooth fractures. However, cats are also susceptible to painful conditions such as tooth resorption and stomatitis, which can often go unnoticed until the symptoms become severe. Cats can experience pain as we do but evolved to hide their pain for survival purposes. Noticing pain in your cat can be difficult and result in periodontal disease or other oral problems worsening over time. That's why we offer advanced cat dentistry in addition to our other high-quality dental services to the Dallas-Fort Worth area.
Tooth resorption affects 60-70% of all mature cats. Resorption starts on the tooth’s surface (enamel) or on the cementum (tooth root enamel). For reasons unknown, tiny cells called odontoclasts attack the tooth, causing it to slowly disintegrate. The resulting lesions cause severe pain as they spread to the tooth’s inner layers. Additionally, any bacteria in the mouth will be able to access the bloodstream through these lesions and infect the heart, liver and/or kidneys.
Is This Condition Treatable?
The cause of tooth resorption is unknown and thus, there are no good preventative measures. Extraction is currently the best treatment option. Fillings are a temporary solution at best and will not prevent further resorption.
To diagnose and evaluate tooth resorption, we take full mouth radiographs to check for damage below the gum line. We recommend annual oral exams for mature cats and semiannual oral exams plus annual dental X-rays for cats with a history of tooth resorption.
Stomatitis is a painful, life-limiting disease characterized by inflammation and ulceration of the gums and soft oral tissue. It causes bad breath, excessive drooling, difficulty eating, and weight loss. Gingivostomatitis can be so painful that cats may cry out when trying to eat and drop their food in the process.
This condition does not have a single known cause, but we do know that it is related to the immune system overreacting to plaque bacteria. In cats with gingivostomatitis, immune cells infiltrate the gum tissue, causing a severe inflammatory reaction.
Telltale Signs of Gingivostomatitis
If your cat is showing any of these symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately:
- Bad breath
- Red, swollen gums
- Trouble swallowing
- Lack of appetite
- Dropping food
- Teeth grinding
- Strange tongue movements
- Blood-tinged saliva
- A dull, poorly-kept coat from lack of grooming
A daily oral hygiene routine can help reduce plaque buildup and therefore reduce your cat’s gingivostomatitis; however, due to the pain, this may not be possible. Furthermore, steroid injections and antibiotics will become ineffective over time. In most cases, the best treatment is to extract all affected teeth.
Other Dental Concerns
Periodontal disease is a common condition caused by plaque bacteria. As plaque accumulates, it mineralizes into calculus, creating a rough surface ideal for further plaque buildup. The bacteria in turn becomes more harmful, infecting the gums and connective tissue surrounding the teeth. Periodontal disease can be very painful and lead to bone and tooth loss. Furthermore, bacteria can enter the bloodstream and infect the heart, liver and kidneys.
Fractured teeth are very painful and can also create gateways for bacteria to enter and infect the pulp tissue within the tooth. Treatment options for fractured teeth include root canal therapy or extraction. Digital X-rays are necessary for deciding the best treatment.
Oral tumors account for about 10% of all feline cancer cases. Also, about 90% of oral tumors in cats are malignant. If you detect an oral mass or swelling in your cat’s mouth, you should have them examined as soon as possible.