National Pet Dental Health Month: Tooth Resorption

By: Talin Seta Shahinian

February is National Pet Dental Health Month, and one of the common dental issues in felines is tooth resorption. What is tooth resorption, and how is it treated to keep your cat happy and healthy? Read on to learn more about this feline dental disease.

What Is Feline Tooth Resorption?

Tooth resorption happens when dentin erodes and eventually becomes destroyed and unrepairable. Dentin is the hard tissue located underneath the enamel of the tooth. Eventually, all areas of the tooth with resorption can be affected. Tooth resorption may result in a hole in the tooth, resembling a cavity. Cats rarely have cavities caused by bacteria, so if you notice a hole in your cat’s tooth, it’s more likely tooth resorption caused by biological processes.

What Causes Tooth Resorption?

Tooth resorption can have many possible causes, but the causes aren’t known in all cases, so treating the symptoms is how your veterinarian will approach the problem. There are two types of feline tooth resorption. Only type one has a possible direct cause, as there’s a plausible link to periodontal disease.

What Are the Symptoms of Feline Tooth Resorption?

The dentin below the tooth is a very sensitive area, and once it’s exposed, it can cause your cat a great deal of pain. It can manifest as trembling of the jaw or muscle spasms whenever the lesion area is touched. Other symptoms of tooth resorption are difficulty eating, increased salivation, and oral bleeding.

Cats are masters at masking pain, so you’ll need to be a bit of a detective to spot her symptoms. Cats tend to be quite food motivated, so if you see her avoiding her food bowl or turning away after attempting to eat, that may be a sign of resorption or another dental or jaw issue. Don’t hesitate to book a vet visit to get her checked out.

These symptoms are the result of the loss of the hard outer tissue. The enamel, cementum, and dentin areas are what protect your cat’s teeth when the teeth are healthy. The crown of the tooth and the root of the tooth can be affected by lesions. Those that affect the crown are especially painful, and your buddy will require prompt veterinary treatment so that he doesn’t have to continue suffering.

How Is Feline Tooth Resorption Diagnosed?

X-rays are the primary way for your vet to deliver a definitive diagnosis of tooth resorption. A visual inspection of the affected tooth, teeth, and gumline may be clues, but X-rays are required for your vet to be able to see what’s going on below the surface.  The density will be usual in a normal tooth, and there will be a thin dark outline around the root, visually separating it from the bone. This outline is the periodontal ligament area, which attaches the root to the bone in a healthy feline tooth.

There are two types of tooth resorption. In type 1, the crown is destroyed, but the root remains normal in appearance. The root visibly disintegrates in type 2 tooth resorptions and is challenging to discern from the bone on an X-ray. Type 2 is known as replacement resorption.

How Is Feline Tooth Resorption Treated?

The X-ray findings determine your veterinarian’s treatment of your cat’s tooth resorption. Your vet will examine the intraoral X-rays to determine which type of resorption your cat is suffering from, then proceed to the appropriate treatment. Type 1 tooth resorption will require both the crown and root to be extracted. With Type 2 tooth resorption, crown amputation with intentional root retention is the usual treatment necessary to get your feline friend feeling more like himself again.

If you live in NW Wisconsin, Purple Cat Mobile Vet Clinic is here to help you keep your cat healthy and happy. We’re a high-quality, high-volume, low-cost spay/neuter clinic. We see cats exclusively. Scheduling information is available on our website. You can also check out our Facebook page for more helpful information on all things feline!


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