A Guide to Feline Dental Care

Feline dental care is important for the health of your cat.  Cats are affected by many of the same dental problems that affect dogs, such as periodontal diseases, fractured teeth, and oral growths. Cats are also plagued with tooth resorption and oropharyngeal inflammation.
Tooth Resorption

More than half of cats over three years old will be affected by tooth resorption (TR).  These tooth defects have also been called cavities, neck lesions, external or internal root resorptions, and cervical line erosions. Affected teeth often erode and disappear when they are replaced by bone. The root structure breaks down; then the enamel and most of the tooth become ruined, and bone replaces the tooth. This most commonly happens where the gum meets the tooth surface. Molars are most commonly affected; however, tooth resorptions can be found on any tooth. The reason for the resorption is unknown, but theories supporting an autoimmune response have been proposed.

Cats affected with tooth resorption may show excessive salivation, bleeding in the mouth, or have difficulty eating. Tooth resorptions can be quite painful. A majority of affected cats do not show obvious clinical signs.  Many times your veterinarian will diagnose tooth resorption during your cat’s wellness exam.   Radiographs are helpful in making definitive diagnosis and treatment planning.

Oropharyngeal Inflammation

Cats can also be affected by oropharyngeal inflammation, an inflammatory condition. The cause of this disease has not been determined but an immune-related cause is suspected. Signs in an affected cat include difficulty swallowing, weight loss, and excessive saliva. An oral examination will show many abnormalities. X-rays often reveal moderate to severe periodontal disease with bone loss.

Managing a case of oropharyngeal inflammation can be challenging.  Oftentimes attempts at conservative therapy are not affective, nor is medical care. Extracting specific teeth resolves the syndrome in 60 percent of the cases. Twenty percent require medication, typically prednisone, while the other 20 percent respond poorly.  A carbon dioxide laser has also been used with some success.

Cancer of the Mouth

Cats are also affected by cancer in their mouths.  Squamous cell carcinoma is the most common type of oral cancer. Less common feline oral malignancies include melanoma, fibrosarcoma, lymphosarcoma, and undifferentiated carcinomas. Not all feline oral swellings are malignant. Cats are frequently affected by reactions to foreign bodies, problems from dental disease, tumor-like masses, infections, and growths in the nose or throat. Biopsies are essential for diagnosis.

Cats can be affected by many oral and dental conditions.  Once diagnosed and treated, your cat will be pain free-and much happier.