Tooth Resorption in Cats: Tooth resorption is a painful condition in cats where teeth appear to slowly deteriorate or dissolve away. It occurs when the body mistakenly sees the tooth as foreign tissue and starts breaking down the tooth structure.
- This tends to begin below the gum line, where the body’s immune cells start resorbing or destroying the tooth’s surface layers.
- Over time, the tooth may wear away, exposing sensitive layers or pulp underneath. This causes significant pain and discomfort.
- Often, the first visible sign is a small pink spot on the tooth near the gum line, or the tooth may appear smaller or worn down.
Multiple teeth can be affected in severe cases, and it can be mistaken for routine tartar or gum disease at first. But resorption lesions progress and enlarge over time, often requiring extraction if they become too painful or badly damaged.
Cats of all ages can develop tooth resorption, but it is most common in middle-aged or older kitties. The exact underlying cause is not fully understood, but it is likely an abnormal immune response to the mineral structure of the tooth itself.
The good news is that treatment options can offer pain relief and comfort for your cat. Prompt veterinary care is important to assess the damage and determine next steps, like medication, special dental diets, or extraction of badly damaged teeth. If your cat shows any signs of mouth pain or changes in eating habits, schedule an oral examination right away. With some TLC, you can help your cat feel better and maintain a good quality of life.
Signs Your Cat May Have Tooth Resorption
If your cat is showing any of the following symptoms, tooth resorption may be to blame:
- Halitosis or stinky breath – This is often the first sign of tooth trouble in cats. The odor is usually unpleasant and noticeable.
- Difficulty eating – Your cat may struggle to chew food or show signs of discomfort when eating, such as crying out or shaking its head. Hard food or kibble may be particularly challenging.
- Dropping food or difficulty keeping food in mouth – The affected teeth may be loose, painful, or sensitive. Your cat may have trouble holding onto food or kibble may fall out while eating.
- Excessive drooling – Inflammation and pain from resorptive lesions can cause increased saliva. You may see stringy drool hanging from kitty’s mouth.
- Swollen gums or gum recession – The gums around affected teeth often become red, swollen, and inflamed. You may also notice receding gums exposing more of the tooth.
- Pawing at the mouth – Your cat may rub or scratch at its mouth, face, or jaw due to oral discomfort or pain from tooth resorption.
- Weight loss, lethargy, irritability – Chronic dental disease can take its toll and cause your cat to lose interest in eating. Weight loss, low energy, and behavior changes may result.
If tooth resorption goes undiagnosed and untreated, the teeth will eventually loosen, fall out, decay, or require extraction. Getting a full oral exam and dental x-rays from your vet can confirm resorption and guide the treatment plan. Addressing it early leads to better outcomes for your cat.
Treatment Options for Tooth Resorption in Cats
Tooth resorption is a painful condition for cats, but there are several treatment options available depending on the severity of the disease. As the cat owner, understanding all the choices will help you make the best decision for your furry friend.
Extracting affected teeth is often the best treatment option, especially if the resorption is advanced. This eliminates the source of discomfort and infection risk. Your vet will fully remove damaged teeth under general anesthesia. Most cats recover very well and show improvements in eating and grooming.
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2. Root canal therapy
If the resorption is limited to the tooth crown and has not yet reached the root, a specialist veterinary dentist may be able to perform a root canal procedure to remove diseased tooth tissue while preserving some healthy portions of the tooth. This helps avoid extraction.
3. Antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medication
Oral antibiotics and anti-inflammatory medicines can temporarily relieve pain and infection associated with mild cases of tooth resorption. But medications are usually just a short-term or complementary treatment strategy along with extraction or root canals.
4. Professional dental cleaning
A thorough veterinary dental cleaning under anesthesia helps remove tartar and plaque from affected and nearby teeth. This eliminates sources of reinfection and reduces inflammation. Regular cleanings may slow disease progression in early stages.
The best approach depends on your cat’s specific condition, age, health history and test results. Talk to your veterinarian about all tooth resorption treatment alternatives to make the most informed decision for your beloved feline friend. Acting quickly once diagnosed leads to the best outcome.