Painful Tooth Resorption Causes Misery in Cats and Even the Best Pet Parents Seldom Recognize It

By the age of four, half of cats have a painful condition called Tooth Resorption in one or more teeth.  As cats age beyond four years old, it is estimated that 75% or more suffer from this painful condition.  Despite the persistent pain, most cats do not show any outward symptoms, which was a valuable survival instinct prior to domestication as showing weakness was an invitation for attack by predators.  Unfortunately, because cats hide their pain so well, we see that even the most attentive and observant pet parents rarely have any awareness that their cat is experiencing dental pain.

Despite research, the cause of tooth resorption in cats is still not known. Additionally, there is no known way to prevent tooth resorption, but once it occurs, the only way to remove the pain is to extract the tooth. Unfortunately, a thorough visual examination of the mouth by the best veterinarian will miss all or some diseased teeth because feline tooth resorption often starts at or below the gum line and eventually reaches the nerve areas of the tooth that are hidden by the gums. Larger lesions can be visible on the crown portion of the tooth, but dental x-rays are necessary to identify all painful teeth with areas of tooth resorption. A human hygienist will always ask the patient, “Are you having any areas of sensitivity?” but pets cannot answer that question.  That is why Animal Hospital of North Asheville always includes full mouth x-rays with our Feline Comprehensive Oral Health Assessment, so all resorption is identified. 

We strongly recommend home dental care to prevent periodontal disease and tooth infection, but unfortunately there is no known prevention for tooth resorption. While we tend not to think about annual dental care for cats because they aren’t panting bad breath in our faces, it is actually very important to plan for annual evaluation and cleaning under anesthesia so that these painful teeth can be identified, if present, and then extracted.

General anesthesia, monitoring, cleaning, polishing, x-rays and a full written report with your pet’s oral pictures and x-rays are all included in the base price for a Feline Oral Health Assessment and Cleaning. Once your pet is under anesthesia and the full oral exam is performed, Dr. Sim or Dr. Thompson, who perform our dental procedures, will call you while your pet is still under anesthesia. The cost of any additional procedures needed such as extractions will be discussed and any questions you may have will be answered. No additional procedures will be performed unless you give your consent. If you do decide to proceed during the phone call, the procedures will be done that day while your pet is still under anesthesia. Except in cases where extensive dental surgery is necessary, patients are admitted in the morning and go home in the afternoon or early evening. Please feel free to ask for medication you can give your cat at home so they stay calm and relaxed for the trip to the hospital and prior to anesthesia.