When a cat's body breaks down and absorbs the structures that support the tooth, we call this tooth resorption. Here, our Tracy vets discuss the symptoms of tooth resorption in cats and how it can be treated.
What is Tooth Resorption in Cats?
Tooth resorption occurs when the dentin (the hard tissue under the tooth's enamel) of a single tooth or multiple teeth rodes. Left untreated, this can cause irreparable damage.
Cats develop tooth resorption when the body begins to break down and absorb the structures that form the tooth. Typically, this condition originates in the enamel and progresses to the tooth's center. Eventually, most of the tooth will completely disintegrate. The teeth most often affected are the premolars in the lower jaw (generally the third premolars).
Occasionally, this condition can cause a hole to form in the middle of a cat's tooth that may look similar to a cavity. However, the difference between cavities and tooth resorption is that while bacteria cause cavities, tooth resorption is triggered by a biological process within the body. Cavities are also fairly rare in cats, so if you spot a hole in your cat's tooth that looks like a cavity or a rotten tooth is causing severe pain, tooth resorption may be the culprit.
Tooth resorption is one of the most common oral health conditions diagnosed in cats and is a painful experience for your kitty. That's why it's imperative to bring your cat to the vet for routine dental exams and cleanings - so your vet can identify the condition as early as possible.
Different Types of Tooth Resorption in Cats
Cats can develop two types of tooth resorption. The type that occurs in your cat will depend on the way the tooth appears on the radiograph (X-ray) taken by your vet to diagnose this condition. When a veterinarian takes a radiograph of a normal tooth, the tooth root should appear as a dark, thin outline surrounding it, which separates it from the bone. This dark outline represents the periodontal ligament - a normal anatomic element connecting the bone to the root.
The causes of each type of tooth resorption in cats are unknown. However, bringing your cat in for regularly scheduled professional oral examinations and cleanings and maintaining good oral hygiene practices at home will lower your cat's risk of developing this condition, or having it detected right away.
Here are the two types of tooth resorption in cats:
Type 1 Tooth Resorption
When cats have type 1 tooth resorption, it means the tooth's crown is damaged, but on the radiograph, the root looks normal and the periodontal ligament can be easily recognized.
Type 2 Tooth Resorption
Also referred to as replacement resorption, this is where the root looks like it is disintegrating, making it hard to differentiate from the bone on the radiograph.
Symptoms of Tooth Resorption in Cats
While tooth resorption can be very painful for cats, it can be hard to recognize because our feline companions are very good at masking their pain. This makes it very important to be able to recognize the common signs and symptoms listed below:
- Increased Salivation
- Difficulty Eating
- Oral Bleeding
- Behavioral Changes
How Cats With Tooth Resorption Can Be Treated
If you think your cat may have tooth resorption you should call your vet as quickly as possible. If your veterinarian suspects your feline friend has this condition, they will conduct radiographs and a clinical screening while your cat is under anesthesia. Your vet may also perform a complete dental screening. If cat tooth resorption is left undiagnosed and treated, the condition will continue to worsen and cause your kitty a great deal of pain, in addition to infection. If left untreated for long enough, the crown of the tooth can break, resulting in tooth loss.
If your vet diagnoses your cat with type 1 tooth resorption, they will most likely need to extract the root and crown. If your cat has type 2 tooth resorption, your vet may need to conduct a crown amputation with intentional root retention.
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.