Open Wide, Kitty!

The Importance of Dental Care for Your Cat

Healthy Teeth?. Photo Credit: Guilia Nerbano/EyeEm/Getty Images

Although cat owners may have sharp eyes at spotting symptoms of illness in our furry friends, many of us have taken a more casual approach to dental health. It is not surprising, therefore, to learn that 85% of adult pets have periodontal disease, and that dental disease is the largest single cause of health problems in cats.

Forms and Causes of Dental Disease

  • Peridontal Disease
    Caused when a buildup of plaque calcifies, forming tartar, which pushes food debris and bacteria under the gum line, infecting the gum and bone structure that support the teeth. Inflamed gums, swelling, bleeding gums or bad breath are among the symptoms. As in humans, peridontal disease is the most common dental diseases in cats. Treatment for this disease includes antibiotics, dental cleaning, and extraction for advanced cases.
  • Feline Stomatitis
    Stomatitis, also known as Lymphocytic Plasmacytic Stomatitis (LPS) is a serious and frequently misunderstood condition. It is thought to be an autoimmune disease (the body becomes allergic to plaque around the teeth), and is often found in cats with other autoimmune conditions, such as FIV and FeLV. Although not gingivitis, it is often found alongside gingivitis. Feline Stomatitis involves inflammation of the mouth which may extend into the throat or pharynx, causing angry, red lesions described as "cobblestone" in appearance. Cats with stomatitis suffer a great deal of pain, often affecting their eating habits. You may even see an affected cat pawing at its mouth.
  • Feline Odontoclastic Oral Resorption Lesions (FORL)
    These painful lesions start as shallow pits that occur in the enamel and dentine of a tooth. Plaque accumulates, and the tissue surrounding the affected tooth becomes inflamed. If the condition worsens, the pit may extend into the tooth pulp, essentially killing the tooth. FORL are diagnosed through oral examination and oral radiographs. Extraction is usually the treatment of choice.
  • Malocclusion
    Malocclusion is usually visually evident, and can cause difficulty in eating, along with subsequent weight loss. Veterinary medicine has come so far that now there are veterinary dentists who specialize in orthodontics.

One final note: Although evidence of pain in eating may be a symptom of feline dental disease, it is usually one of the last symptoms.

Don't wait until these symptoms present, to save your kitty's teeth. With daily brushing, regular home examination, a well-balanced diet, and regular veterinary examination, you may never have to witness such evidence of your loved one's suffering.