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Tooth Resorption in Cats

Is your cat reluctant to eat, drooling or showing other unusual behaviors? If so, it could be due to painful tooth resorption. Our North Asheville vets explain the signs to watch for and how tooth resorption can be treated.

What is Tooth Resorption in Cats?

Tooth resorption is a dental condition frequently seen in cats that is characterized by the erosion of the dentin (the hard tissue beneath a tooth's enamel) of one or more teeth. This erosion gives the appearance that your cat has a rotten tooth. Cat tooth resorption untreated can cause irreparable damage to your kitty's long-term oral health. Over time, this serious condition can affect all of the components of your cat's mouth.

Our feline friends develop tooth resorption when their bodies start breaking down and absorbing the structures that form their tooth. Generally, this condition starts in the enamel and makes its way to the tooth's center. Eventually, most of the tooth will be completely gone, only leaving a raised bump on the gums. The premolars in the lower jaw (generally the third premolars) are the teeth that are most often affected.

Occasionally, this condition can make a hole in the middle of a cat's tooth, which could look like your cat has a rotten tooth or a cavity. However, the difference between tooth resorption and cavities is that cavities are the result of bacteria, and resorption is caused by the body's own biological process. Cavities are also fairly rare in cats, so if you see a hole in your kitty's tooth that looks like a cavity, it is most likely tooth resorption.

Types of Feline Tooth Resorption

There are two types of tooth resorption that cats can develop. The type your cat has will be determined by the way the tooth appears on the radiograph (X-ray) your vet takes to diagnose this condition. When a veterinarian takes a radiograph of a normal tooth it should show the tooth root with a thin dark outline surrounding it, that separates the root from the bone. The dark outline represents the periodontal ligament, which is a normal anatomic element that connects the bone and the root.

Here are the two types of tooth resorption in cats:

Cat Tooth Resorption - Type 1

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.

Cat Tooth Resorption - Type 2

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.

Signs That Your Cat May Be Suffering From Tooth Resorption

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 signs and behaviors detailed below:

  • Increased Salivation
  • Difficulty Eating
  • Oral Bleeding
  • Behavioral Changes

Treating Cats With Tooth Resorption

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. Without these tests, your cat's tooth resorption will go undiagnosed and continue to get worse, causing your kitty a great deal of pain. Since this condition can be hard for cat owners to recognize, it is important to bring your feline friend to the vet for routine dental exams and cleanings to give your vet the chance to detect this condition in its earliest forms.

If your vet diagnoses your cat with type 1 tooth resorption, they will most likely need to extract the root and crown. If your kitty 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.

Do you think that your cat might have a rotten tooth? Our experienced vets at Animal Hospital of North Asheville are here to help Contact us today.

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