Tooth resorption is a painful condition that affects as much as 40% of all adult cats. Our veterinarians in Denver share some of the symptoms of tooth resorption in cats and how it is treated.
Feline Tooth Resorption
When the dentin, which is the hard tissue beneath a tooth's enamel, erodes in a single tooth or multiple teeth, it is known as tooth resorption. If left untreated, it can cause irreparable damage and ultimately affect all the components of the affected tooth. Tooth resorption in cats occurs when their bodies start breaking down and re-absorbing the structures that make up their teeth.
It generally begins in the enamel and progresses to the center of the tooth. If not identified promptly, the tooth will be entirely gone, leaving behind only a raised bump in the cat's gums. The teeth most commonly affected are the premolars in the lower jaw, especially the third premolars.
Occasionally, tooth resorption can cause a hole in the middle of a cat's tooth, which may resemble a cavity. However, cavities are caused by bacteria, while resorption is the result of the body's biological process. Cavities are also rare in cats, so if you notice a hole in your cat's tooth that looks like a cavity, it is most likely tooth resorption.
Types of Feline Tooth Resorption
Cats can develop two types of tooth resorption, which are determined by the appearance of the affected tooth on a radiograph. A veterinarian will take a radiograph of a normal tooth, which should show a thin and dark outline surrounding the tooth's root, separating it from the bone. This dark outline represents the periodontal ligament that usually connects a tooth to your cat's jawbone.
Here are the two types of tooth resorption in cats:
Type 1 Tooth Resorption
If a cat has type 1 tooth resorption, it indicates that the crown of their tooth has suffered damage. However, the root appears normal on radiographs, and the periodontal ligament can be easily identified.
Type 2 Tooth Resorption
This is also referred to as replacement resorption. This kind of tooth resorption involves the seeming disintegration of the tooth root, making it difficult to distinguish from the jawbone in an X-ray.
Symptoms of Tooth Resorption in Cats
Tooth resorption can cause severe discomfort to your cat, but it can be challenging to spot since felines are experts in hiding their pain. Therefore, it's crucial to be vigilant, especially as your cat grows older, and watch for the following signs and behaviors:
- Behavioral Changes
- Increased Salivation
- Oral Bleeding
- Difficulty Eating
Treating Cats With Tooth Resorption
If you suspect that your cat may be experiencing tooth resorption, it's important to contact your veterinarian right away. Your vet will likely conduct dental X-rays and a clinical screening while your cat is under anesthesia to determine if they have this condition. Additionally, a thorough dental examination may be performed.
Without these tests, your cat's tooth resorption will go undiagnosed and continue to get worse, causing your kitty a great deal of pain. Since this condition can be hard for cat owners to recognize, it is important to bring your feline friend to the vet for routine dental exams and cleanings to give your vet a chance to detect this condition in its earliest forms.
If your cat is diagnosed with type 1 tooth resorption by the vet, it will probably require extraction of the root and crown. In the case of type 2 tooth resorption, the vet may perform crown amputation while intentionally retaining the root.
Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.