- There are 26 deciduous teeth and 30 permanent teeth in a cat.
- Nearly 70 percent of cats ages 3 and older have signs of dental disease.
- Many of those cats will never receive any home dental care, and the condition of their teeth will worsen every year for the rest of their lives.
- Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form a substance called plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth.
- Subsequently, minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into dental calculus (tartar), which is firmly attached to the teeth.
- Bacteria under the gumline can move into the bloodstream, leading to heart disease, kidney and liver disease, and even sepsis.
Periodontal Disease progression: Stages 1-4
- Gingivitis is characterized by swelling, redness, discomfort, and, in severe cases, bleeding where the gums and the teeth meet (the gingival margin).
- Periodontitis If gingivitis is not controlled, it can progress to periodontitis, a condition that eventually cannot be reversed. In periodontitis, the tissues that attach the tooth to the underlying gums and bone are weakened as a result of damaging substances produced by disease-causing bacteria and the inflammation caused by the cat’s own immune system. This can lead to root abscess and oronasal fistulas.
- Tooth Resorption Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions (FORLs) is a process in which the tooth structure breaks down, beginning inside the tooth, and often progressing to other parts of the tooth (the root). Tooth resorption is the most common cause of tooth loss in cats, and between 30 and 70% of cats show some sign of this destructive process. The cause of tooth resorption is not known, but we do know that it is painful and these teeth need to be extracted.
Other oral problems in cats
- Oral tumors
- Squamous cell carcinoma
- Stomatitis Feline stomatitis is a severe, painful inflammation of a cat’s mouth and gums. In many cases, the cause is assumed to be immune mediated. This disease requires full mouth extractions to fix the problem.
- Regular veterinary exams: annually if under 7 years old and bi-annually if over 7 years old.
- Brushing and oral rinses: brush daily for maximum benefit using professionally formulated toothpaste from your veterinarian. Use a water additive daily (also from your veterinarian).
- Dental toys and treats- can be helpful but do not replace professional oral health care.
- Monitor your cat closely- signs of severe dental disease include drooling, not eating, weight loss, finicky eating, or no signs at all. Cats are expert at hiding their disease and pain.
COHAT: complete oral health assessment and treatment- annually
- X-rays, probing each tooth looking for deep pockets
- Scaling, cleaning, polishing
- Extractions of infected teeth
- The overarching goal is to control infection and pain
- Pain management: multimodal therapy
- NSAIDs, opioids, gabapentin
Untreated dental disease can lead to severe oral pain and infection, blood infection, cardiac, kidney, and liver disease, local abscesses, and even death.
It is important to have your cat’s teeth checked by your veterinarian every year because cat’s are masters at hiding pain and disease at home and your veterinarian knows what to look for.