The Most Common Feline Dental Disease: Tooth Resorption

dental imaging of severe tooth resorption

The Most Common Feline Dental Disease: Tooth Resorption

What Is Tooth Resorption?

Tooth resorption (TR) is the most common disease affecting the teeth in domesticated cats. Between 25-75% of cats develop TR during their life, and the risk of developing this painful disease increases with age. Tooth resorption is a process that describes the destruction of a cat’s teeth by their own body’s immune cells. Unfortunately, the underlying cause or trigger for the inflammatory process in cats remains unknown. Cats oftentimes become affected at four to six years of age, and pure‐bred cats may be more at risk.

What is particularly tricky about this condition is that most affected cats will not show distinct symptoms at home. Possible but infrequent signs that attentive cat owners may notice at home can include halitosis (bad breath), ptyalism (excessive drooling), head shaking, dropping food while eating, reluctance to eat hard kibble, excessive or abnormal tongue movements, jaw tremoring while eating, drinking, or grooming, sneezing, dysphagia (difficulty eating), dehydration, anorexia (inappetence), weight loss, or lethargy.


How Is TR Diagnosed?

A thorough, anesthetized oral exam is almost always necessary to diagnose TR in cats unless the lesions are so advanced (and painful) that the teeth eventually fracture or the crowns become “missing” in response to this inflammatory process. A veterinarian must probe each tooth, particularly along the gum line. However, TR most commonly takes place at the roots of the teeth. This means that TR occurs on the part of the tooth that exists below the gingiva (gum tissue), thus it can not be appreciated without dental imaging. This is why every cat who receives professional dental treatment should always undergo full-mouth dental imaging. Without interpreting the anesthetized oral exam and dental imaging together, TR can easily be missed, even by the most skilled veterinarians. Full-mouth dental imaging is accomplished by either dental radiography (x-rays), or even better, cone beam CT.


How Is TR Treated?

The treatment of choice for teeth with TR is complete extraction by a skilled veterinarian. Unfortunately, non-invasive treatments, including topical fluoride treatment or restoration of early lesions, are ineffective because they do not address the origin of TR (i.e., the disease below the gum line). While a cat’s own body can attempt to produce bone‐like hard tissue for repair, TR is almost always progressive and continues until the roots are completely resorbed or the crowns of the teeth break off, leaving a fractured tooth and then eventually an open oral wound and painful root remnants behind.


How Can TR Be Prevented?

Although the cause(s) of TR largely remains unknown, a veterinary study has shown that cats without TR are more likely to have owners who brush their pets’ teeth. Teeth brushing can be a difficult task to perform in cats, thus all dental home care, including brushing, should be attempted at the earliest possible age to have the best chance for tolerance by your feline companion.


Tooth Resorption Treatment in Denver

If you believe your cat is suffering from tooth resorption or experiencing any other dental issues, please don’t hesitate to give us a call to make an appointment. Apex Veterinary Specialists is dedicated to providing comprehensive veterinary dental care to Colorado pets. From teeth cleanings to tooth resorption treatment, we offer a wide range of services that will give your pet a healthy smile.