10 signs your cat is suffering from feline tooth resorption

If you have a cat, you know they can suffer from dental problems. But were you aware that close to 75% of cats over 5 years old suffer from a painful problem called tooth resorption?

It’s the most common cause of tooth loss in cats.

Purebred cats over the age of 4 are most susceptible, particularly Siamese and Abyssinians.

To understand what resorption is, you need to understand the structure of the feline tooth.  Their teeth are like human teeth. Here’s an illustration.

tooth_diagramPhoto credit: peteducation.com

Within the tooth, there’s a chamber called the pulp chamber or root canal. That chamber is filled with blood vessels, lymphatic vessels and nerves.

This tissue is surrounded by a bony substance called dentin.  Dentin creates most of the structure of the tooth. Enamel overlays the dentin.

Resorption starts when a lesion forms on the enamel. This lesion is not a cavity. But in time, it will spread to the dentin and then on to the pulp chamber.

Sometimes you can see the lesion on the tooth, but sometimes it lies below the gumline or is hidden by plaque.

Photo credit: mypetsdentist.com

If you can’t see the lesion then how do you detect a problem?

Here are 10 signs to look out for to keep your kitty from suffering too long with this nasty condition.

1) More tartar in some areas than others (your cat’s in too much pain to chew there)

2) Head tilting when eating (trying to chew on one side)

3) Food may fall out of mouth while chewing

4) Inflammation of the gums

5) General inflammation of the mouth

6) Gum tissue growing onto the tooth

7) Bleeding (blood around food and/or water bowl)

8) Difficulty eating and/or a change in food preference from kibble to soft

9) Increased salivation

10) Missing or fractured teeth

Often, owners don’t realize how much pain their cat was in from this condition until after it’s treated. All of a sudden they have a happier more playful kitty.

Good dental hygiene, which includes brushing your cat’s teeth daily and annual dental exams, will help you spot a problem. But it’s not likely to prevent it because no one knows for sure what causes tooth resorption.

As with most other health conditions, early detection can help avoid serious suffering.

Resorption progresses through 5 stages. The goal is to catch it before it’s gotten beyond the first stage.

Stage I – Loss of enamel only

Stage II – Lesion extends into the dentin

Stage III – Lesion extends into the pulp canal, but tooth is intact

Stage IV – Lesion extends into the pulp canal, but tooth has extensive damage

Stage V – Crown of tooth is missing but roots are still there

Depending on the stage, your cat’s tooth may need to be extracted. Unfortunately, that’s the only treatment.

If your vet recommends removal, it’s tricky. The tooth is fragile and will often break.  The vet will take an X-ray during the procedure to help find any fractured root pieces. The whole tooth must be removed to avoid infection.

Because resorption is one problem that can’t be prevented, the best course of action is vigilance. Check your kitty’s teeth every day while brushing and talk to your vet if you see signs that your cat’s mouth is hurting them.

Once your cat develops this problem, your vet is likely to suggest a dental exam every 6 months.

Has your cat suffered from tooth resorption? How did you detect the problem? Share your experience in the comment section at the top of the page.

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