A common issue we see in cats is something called tooth resorption or neck lesions. More than 50% of all cats over three years of age will have at least one tooth affected by resorption yet it affects dogs much less frequently.
Tooth resorption is the slow destruction of a tooth caused by cells called odontoclasts. Tooth resorptions are usually found on the outside of the tooth at the gum line. If you look carefully at your cats teeth you may see signs of tooth resorption. Basically it is the tooth decaying right at the gumline. The tooth itself may look healthy but right below the gum, if you see any pink it may be a neck lesion. If you touch this area with the tip of your nail you may notice your cat actually flinch. Now think about every time it goes to chew kibble, it hurts!!
Sometimes a resorption will look as though gum tissue is growing over or into the tooth. It can also appear like there is a hole in the tooth.
Feline tooth resorption is an extremely painful condition. However, many cats show no obvious signs of pain until a lesion is actually touched. We have had cats under general anesthesia who will flinch when the affected area is touched although they are completely asleep, the nerves are still active. This is a clear demonstration of how painful this condition is.
Sometimes an affected cat will drool, have bleeding from the mouth or pinkish saliva at times, or even difficulty chewing. Occasionally there can also be vomiting of unchewed food, behaviour changes and bad breath.
From time to time an observant pet owner or a veterinarian will be able to diagnose a tooth resorption in a kitty without sedation. However, it can be difficult to diagnose a tooth resorption especially if there is tartar and plaque covering the teeth. This is why regular dental cleanings with probing of the teeth is so important. Extraction of a tooth undergoing resorption is the only treatment. Once the affected tooth is removed the cat feels much better.
The exact cause of feline tooth resorption is still a mystery. And once a tooth resorption has been identified in your cat’s mouth, unfortunately, it’s very common for additional teeth to suffer the same fate. That’s why our veterinarians at Snelgrove Vet Services in Brampton think it’s extremely important to twice yearly dental checkups to screen for additional lesions.