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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 Port Jefferson 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.

This condition can occasionally cause a hole in the middle of a cat's tooth, which may resemble a cavity. The difference between tooth resorption and cavities, however, is that cavities are caused by bacteria, whereas resorption is caused by the body's own biological process. Cavities are also uncommon in cats; therefore, if you notice a hole in your cat's tooth that appears to be a cavity, it is most likely tooth resorption.

Types of Feline Tooth Resorption

Cats can suffer from two types of tooth resorption. The appearance of your cat's tooth on an X-ray will determine the type. 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 is the periodontal ligament, a normal anatomical 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 who are prone to hiding signs of pain. As a result, while resorption can be excruciatingly painful for cats, it can be difficult for owners to detect. That is why it is critical to be able to recognize the following signs and behaviors:

  • 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 Port Jefferson vets to learn more or to book a dental appointment for your cat.

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