Resorptive tooth lesions can be painful in cats

February is Dental Awareness Month in the veterinary community.

Feline resorptive dental lesions, also known as tooth resorption or tooth decay, are a common dental problem in cats. These lesions occur when the body's own cells, called odontoclasts, destroy the tooth's structure, causing the tooth's hard tissue to gradually erode.

This condition can cause severe pain and discomfort to cats and, if left untreated, can lead to tooth loss and other oral health problems. Many cats become aggressive or shy because of undiagnosed pain.

The exact cause of resorptive lesions in feline teeth is not fully understood. However, several factors have been identified as potential contributors. These factors include genetics, hormonal imbalances, inflammation and certain nutritional factors. Cats with a history of dental disease or poor oral hygiene are also more likely to develop these lesions.

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Clinical signs of feline resorptive dental lesions vary, but common symptoms include difficulty eating, excessive salivation, weight loss, bleeding gums, bad breath, and reluctance to touch around the mouth. If you notice any of these signs, be sure to take your cat to the veterinarian for a thorough dental exam.

Treatment of resorptive dental lesions in cats usually involves tooth extraction. This is because the affected tooth cannot be saved and will cause ongoing pain and discomfort to the cat.

Before a tooth is extracted, your veterinarian will take dental X-rays to assess the extent of the lesion and determine the best treatment plan. Tooth extraction usually requires general anesthesia to ensure the cat's comfort and safety. We also use dental nerve blocks.

Preventing resorptive lesions in feline teeth is challenging because the exact cause remains unclear. However, there are steps cat owners can take to promote good oral health and potentially reduce the risk of these lesions.

Regular dental checkups and professional cleanings are essential to maintaining oral hygiene. Brushing your cat's teeth with a pet-safe toothpaste can also help remove plaque and prevent dental disease. A balanced diet that meets all nutritional needs, including appropriate levels of calcium and phosphorus, may also play a role in preventing tooth resorption.

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In our practice, we utilize laser treatments to reduce inflammation and herbal formulas to strengthen the immune system to prevent recurrence. Sadly, in advanced cases we must remove all teeth.

Have your cat's oral health checked by your veterinarian. Remember, professional cleaning and at-home dental care can help keep your cat pain-free.

Mitsie Vargas of Orchid Springs Animal Hospital in Winter Haven is a fellow of the American Veterinary Acupuncture Society and the author of “Alt-Vet: Revolutionary Pet Care and Longevity Solutions.”

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