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Tooth Resorption in Cats - What It Is & How It's Treated

Although it is estimated that 40% of adult cats suffer from painful tooth resorption many go untreated because their owners are simply unaware of the condition. In today's post, our Franklin vets explain the symptoms of tooth resorption in cats and how it is treated.

Feline Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption occurs when the dentin (the hard tissue beneath a tooth's enamel) of a single tooth or multiple teeth begins to erode. Untreated, this process can result in irreparable damage as over time, tooth resorption can affect all of the components in your cat's affected tooth.

This painful condition develops when your cat's body begins breaking down and absorbing the structures that form their tooth. The process generally starts in the enamel and makes its way towards the tooth's center. Eventually, most of the tooth will be 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 by tooth resorption.

Occasionally, this condition can make a hole in the middle of a cat's tooth, which could look like 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 cat'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 an X-ray. 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:

Type 1 Tooth Resorption

  • If your cat has Type 1 Tooth Resorption, it means the tooth's crown is damaged, but on the X-ray, the root looks normal and the periodontal ligament can be easily recognized.

Type 2 Tooth Resorption

  • Also referred to as replacement resorption, if your cat is diagnosed with Type 2 Tooth Resorption the tooth root will look like it is disintegrating, making it hard to differentiate from the bone on the radiograph.

Symptoms of Tooth Resorption in Cats

Cats are stoic creatures, naturally inclined to hide signs of pain. So, although resorption can be very painful for cats, it can be hard for owners to recognize. Which is why it's very important to be able to recognize the signs and behaviors detailed below:

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

Treatment For Cats With Tooth Resorption

If you think your cat may have tooth resorption, call your vet right away to book an examination for your kitty. If your veterinarian suspects your feline friend has this condition, they will conduct X-rays 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 become more severe, causing your cat unnecessary pain.

Because this condition can be hard for pet parents to recognize, it's important to bring your kitty 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 likely need to extract your cat's tooth 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.

Contact our Franklin vets at Pet Vet to learn more or to book a dental appointment for your cat.

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Pet Vet is accepting new patients! Our experienced vets are passionate about improving the health of Franklin's companion animals. Get in touch today to book your pet's first appointment.

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