What is Discolored Teeth?
An oral disease that often manifests as discolored teeth is feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL). This is the feline version of a cavity in the tooth. It can be found in the lower premolars of the cat. Gingivitis is another common condition that turns teeth from white to a darker color. Inflamed gums are another indicator of gingivitis. Indoor cats are at greater risk of developing discolored teeth than outdoor cats, since chewing bones can help clean the teeth and mouth.
Feline dental issues should never be ignored, as bacterial infections are commonly found in dental complications. A bacterial infection in a tooth may spread throughout the body and damage organs.
In cats, healthy teeth are generally white. Any variation in color indicates issues in oral health or tooth damage. Severe dental diseases can also change the color of a cat’s teeth. A very large percent of cats suffer from a degree of dental issues or disease. By the time that discoloration occurs, the cat may have been experiencing oral pain for some time. After a tooth has died, its color will darken significantly.
Symptoms of Discolored Teeth in Cats
Whenever a cat’s teeth are not purely white, underlying oral health issues are a possibility. By inspecting your cat’s mouth on a regular basis you can spot symptoms as soon as they arise. Symptoms are as follows:
- Visible cavities
- Yellow or brown tartar (calculus)
- Purple or pink shade to teeth
- Cracked or broken teeth
- Red gums
- Recessed gums
- Bleeding from mouth
- Bad breath
- Difficulty eating
Causes of Discolored Teeth in Cats
Many different factors can cause a cat’s teeth to discolor. Trauma to the face or mouth is the number one cause of tooth discoloration, and is often paired with more severe issues or injuries. Known causes and risk factors include:
- Brachycephalic (short-nosed) cat breeds
- Tartar buildup (mainly in older cats)
- Diet, especially exclusively wet food
- Abnormal tooth formation
- Trauma or injury
- Oral tumor
- Pulpal hemorrhage
Diagnosis of Discolored Teeth in Cats
All teeth should be checked as a part of a regular, annual vet visit. If symptoms have made an appointment necessary sooner, the veterinarian will complete an oral exam. You will be asked how long discoloration has been noticed in the cat’s teeth. If the cat has undergone trauma, a whole body assessment will be necessary to determine if any life threatening issues are present.
X-rays will be required to check for any reduction in bone density of the teeth. A periodontal probe or “shepherd’s hook” may be used to evaluate the affected teeth. Pre-anesthetic blood work, including a complete blood count and a biochemical profile, will be needed to determine whether the cat is a suitable candidate for general anesthesia. This is even more of a concern when the cat has reached old age. The liver and kidneys will need to be evaluated before treatment is commenced.
Treatment of Discolored Teeth in Cats
If you notice discolored teeth in your cat’s mouth, never wait to see if more symptoms arise. This can be harmful to your cat, and cause it to go through unnecessary pain.
Scaling and Polishing
A deep tooth cleaning can be done by your veterinarian to help remove the buildup of tartar. If the cat’s health qualifies for general anesthesia, then this treatment can be effective at restoring mouth health.
Teeth that are completely dead or rotten need to be removed from the mouth to prevent infection. Tooth pulling is a quick procedure. Many cats have no difficulty eating after having teeth pulled, even if the number of removed teeth is great.
This option may be chosen if the veterinarian is highly skilled and there having the tooth remain in the mouth will benefit the cat.
This treatment can allow the cat to have some tooth function back by inserting a cover over the remainder of chipped or broken teeth. Dentinal tubules are sealed prior to the installation of a crown.
If any infection is present in the mouth, antibiotics will be needed to rid the body of harmful bacteria. Prescriptions generally last from two to four weeks.
Recovery of Discolored Teeth in Cats
Cats respond very well when mouth pain that leads to tooth discoloration is relieved. You may notice a behavioral change for the better. The quality of life can be greatly improved for the cat after successful treatment. Diet should be adjusted to include crunchy items to help save the other teeth. Often a toothache will follow many dental treatments, but prognosis is generally good, unless the cat is suffering from substantial trauma affecting multiple parts of the body.
Regular dental inspection should be a part of your cat’s annual vet visit. You can also regularly monitor your cat’s mouth for any variation in tooth color. It is a good idea to invest in a toothbrush and toothpaste for your cat. Most cat toothpaste contains enzymes that help control plaque buildup. It is best to start brushing gently without toothpaste. Eventually, when the cat is comfortable with the feeling of a brushing, toothpaste can be added. Brushing the teeth once a week is often all that is needed to maintain oral health.
Discolored Teeth Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
what colour should the molars on a cat be? my 3 1/2 yr old cat has a very light yellow colour on his back teeth. is this normal? i have been brushing his teeth for 1 month now. how long will it take to get them white like his fangs and front and sides?
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