Pet Health Library

Tooth Resorption in Cats

Cat with mouth wide open

Background

The most common dental disease in domestic cats is a destructive process called tooth resorption. This painful condition is believed to affect more than 65% of cats during their lifetime. The cause of tooth resorption is currently unknown, but the condition seems to develop when a cell within the tooth called an odontoclast is activated and removes calcium from within the tooth structure. The tooth then starts to erode, often from within. As the disease progresses, the pulp cavity becomes exposed, causing sensitivity and pain.

Risk Factors

Cats with previously diagnosed tooth resorption are likely to develop the disease in other teeth. Annual oral examinations are recommended to identify new lesions as they develop.

A close up photo of a cat's mouth

Signs

Signs of tooth resorption can be subtle or more obvious depending upon the individual cat and the degree of disease. Some cats may have difficulty eating dry food or they may avoid chewing food on one side of the mouth. Other cats may demonstrate jaw chattering or resent handling of the mouth. Many more cats may be stoic and unlikely to show signs of pain or discomfort; therefore, regular veterinary evaluation is recommended to look for evidence of tooth resorption.

Diagnosis

Diagnosing tooth resorption involves general anesthesia and dental radiography (dental “x-rays”). Cats should be evaluated to ensure they are good anesthetic candidates before undergoing a dental procedure. This involves a thorough physical examination, blood work, and sometimes imaging of the chest (i.e., radiographs or echocardiography). Once a patient is safely anesthetized, the teeth should be cleaned and evaluated for dental disease. Probing around the surface of every tooth will screen for tooth resorption.

Early in the disease process, tooth resorption may look like a small hole within the tooth. As the lesions progress, more destruction of the tooth may be present. Often, granulation tissue will grow over the destroyed portion of the tooth, giving the appearance of the gingiva growing onto the tooth surface. Dental radiography may reveal more lesions below the gumline. The combination of periodontal probing and dental radiography  will help determine the best treatment for your cat.

X-rays of cats teeth

Treatment

Since tooth resorption is a progressive disease, many veterinary dentists feel that extraction is the best option for all affected teeth, even those with evidence of mild disease. Most cats do much better with fewer teeth versus painful teeth. After successfully extracting the affected teeth, many owners find that their cats seem happier and are much more active.

Prevention

Keeping gingivitis under control may help prevent some cases of tooth resorption, but many are not preventable.

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Dentistry

About Dentistry at AMC

AMC’s Dentistry Service aims to provide the highest quality dental care to our animal patients and to serve veterinarians in New York City and the tri-state area who need to provide dental services for their clients.

Many pet owners don’t realize it, but dental disease is the most common disease in dogs and cats. More than 50% of cats and 85...

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