What is Tooth Decay?
With regular cleaning and proper diet and nutrition, the buildup of these cells can be mitigated and even prevented, helping to minimize the potential for this painful disease of the mouth in your cat.
Tooth decay in cats can be a painful condition for your pet feline. Tooth decay from feline tooth resorption is a condition in which cellular organisms attach to the teeth. These organisms eat away at the enamel and, eventually, cause your cat’s teeth to disintegrate over time. These cells, called odontoclasts, tend to attach to crevices and cracks in the teeth.
Symptoms of Tooth Decay in Cats
While the most obvious symptoms of tooth decay in your cat will be visible upon inspection of their teeth and mouth, this isn’t always noticeable on a daily basis. There are, however, additional symptoms you can watch for.
- Bad breath
- Decreased desire to groom (typically seen in poor coat condition)
- Sensitivity to hard foods (seen in remnant pieces of hard cat food left near bowl)
- Infection in mouth or gums
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
Causes of Tooth Decay in Cats
While the underlying cause of tooth decay is odontoclasts which attach to the surface of the teeth, the ability of these cells to attach in the first place has many underlying causes. A few of these may include:
- Cracked or broken teeth
- Worn teeth
- Increased presence of plaque
- Poor oral health maintenance
- Certain mineral imbalances
Diagnosis of Tooth Decay in Cats
Any diagnosis of tooth decay in your cat will involve a veterinarian conducting a thorough exam of your cat’s mouth. During this time the vet may use his finger or a probe or other simple object to press gently on the suspicious teeth. Your vet will also ask for a thorough history of your cat’s eating and drinking habits, as well as any medical records relating to previous exams. Previous oral exam records will be especially helpful in establish the rate of decay, if any is found.
While this simple exam will confirm the presence of decay, or identify other tooth related conditions, it won’t allow the veterinarian to determine the severity of tooth decay in your cat. In order to properly diagnose the severity of the condition and decide on an appropriate mode of treatment, your vet may need to conduct x-rays of your cat’s mouth. This will require your cat be placed under anesthesia.
While your cat is under anesthesia for the x-rays, or as part of an independent exam, your veterinarian will conduct a more thorough oral exam of your cat’s teeth. Your vet may use special metal dental instruments to pull back or move the gums gently to determine how deeply the teeth are affected. This will also allow your vet to identify any pockets of infection or abscess that are secondary to the tooth decay.
Treatment of Tooth Decay in Cats
The type of treatment your vet prescribes for tooth decay in your cat will depend on the severity and underlying cause of the tooth decay.
Treatment of Mild Tooth Decay
For mild tooth decay, your veterinarian may advise a thorough cleaning of your cat’s teeth. This will occur in a veterinarian’s office and will typically involve anesthesia. Placing your cat under anesthesia for treatment does have some risks, but it will ensure a thorough removal of harmful cells and bacteria and allow the vet to treat deep into the gum line.
Treatment of Severe Tooth Decay
For treatment of severe tooth decay, your veterinarian will likely need to perform oral surgery on your cat. During the surgery, your vet will remove the decaying teeth. Often times this is done when teeth have become severely damaged and run the risk of attracting additional growths of bacteria which could cause infections of the mouth. For surgery, your cat will also have to be placed under anesthesia. Your vet will also prescribe antibiotics to help fight infection after surgery, and potentially painkillers to help make your cat comfortable. Typically, absorbable stitches are used to close up the area of incision but in some cases, you may need to follow up to have stitches removed.
Recovery of Tooth Decay in Cats
With proper care and follow up preventative procedures, cats with tooth decay will lead long, normal lives. Regular cleanings are a great way to both stop current decay and prevent any additional occurrences. You may also want to speak with your vet regarding special food, treats or other dental products that may promote oral health.
If your cat has had teeth removed as a result of tooth decay, the prognosis remains good. Cats can live full and regular lives even if missing several teeth. In the case of a cat having a large number of teeth removed, you may have to alter your cat’s diet to provide foods that are easier to chew.
Tooth Decay Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals
My cat has some apparent "tarter" buildup on his back right teeth. He is only eating on one side of his mouth at the moment. I have made an appt. With a vet but can you tell me if this is something serious?
Add a comment to Hanover's experience
Was this experience helpful?