Are My Cat’s Teeth Disappearing?
Tooth resorption (also referred to as “FORLs”- feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions) is a mysterious, yet common disease seen in cats (and less commonly, in dogs).
The process of resorption is similar to what occurs with baby teeth- specific cells eat away at the root of the tooth to allow it to fall out. However, this is not a normal process when it happens to adult teeth- it occurs at a much slower rate and since adult teeth have more developed nerve endings, it is also much more painful.
Resorptive lesions can begin anywhere along the root and therefore, away from view. This is why dental xrays (performed under general anesthesia) are essential to detect problems even before they are visible on physical exam (see example below). Once the lesion is exposed to bacteria in the mouth, the diseased tissues become a target for infection and worsening of the inflammation, which is a recipe for PAIN!.
Cats are very good at disguising pain and will very rarely stop eating due to dental disease. Therefore, it is very important to visit your veterinarian for regular oral exams (at least twice a year) to ensure your cats mouth remains healthy and pain free.
Some indicators of oral disease include:
• increased salivation
• bad breath (halitosis)
• jaw spasms when affected area is touched
• bleeding from the mouth
• swelling and redness of the gums (gingivitis)
• and occasionally, dropping food
The bad news is that there is no way to stop or reverse tooth resorption, nor are we able to predict which individual cats (or which teeth) will become afflicted with this condition. As resorptive lesions are a source of pain and inflammation, the only treatment is to extract the affected teeth as they are detected.
Fortunately, our domestic cats do not require teeth for survival since they do not need to hunt and kill prey. Many cats with tooth resorption already swallow food without chewing due to oral pain. Once this source of pain is removed, these cats live comfortable, happy lives even after full mouth extractions (which is sometimes required in more extreme cases).
Please contact us today to book your pet a FREE Dental Health Exam!
Written by Dr. Charlene Ivanoff, DVM
SOURCES: Tooth Resorption in Cats by F.A.Hale, DVM, FADV, DiplAVDC, 2011