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What is Tooth Decay?

The cause of Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions is not fully understood but it is thought to be linked to dental disease and likely has a genetic componenent. 

With regular teeth cleaning and proper diet and nutrition, the buildup of plaque can be 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.

Tooth Decay Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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 to an owner. 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
  • Drooling
  • Gingivitis
  • Bleeding from the mouth
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Causes of Tooth Decay in Cats

While the underlying cause of tooth resorption 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
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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 and gums. 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 establishing 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.

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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 bacteria which could cause infections of the mouth and internal organs. For surgery, your cat will also have to be placed under anesthesia. Your vet will 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, sutures might not be placed.

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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.

FORLs cannot always be prevented. Once diagnosed, the affected teeth should be surgically extracted to prevent pain. 

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.

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Tooth Decay Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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Tooth Decay Questions and Advice from Veterinary Professionals

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Grinch

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domestic short hair

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4 Years

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Fair severity

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9 found helpful

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Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Bad Breath
Sensitivity

I noticed bad breath in my cat Grinch a couple months ago but he's always been sensitive when it comes to touching the side of his face. He yawned today and I only got a glimpse of his back teeth, but it was clear his teeth were unhealthy. They were a foggy white and I spotted some blue hues in there as well. I looked it up and I'm pretty sure it's tooth rot. Grinch eats a full bowl of dry food everyday and drinks a full bowl of water, other than sensitivity he functions normally. Could u please recommend what I do? I don't have money for a $800 vet bill. Around how much would a teeth cleaning be? Can I do it myself?

Aug. 23, 2018

Grinch's Owner

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Dr. Michele K. DVM

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9 Recommendations

You can't clean his teeth yourself, no. Dental cleaning in cats requires anesthetic, and specialized equipment. If Grinch has dental disease, you trying to clean his teeth would most likely be quite painful. I'm not sure if you would end up with an $800 bill, but it would be best to start with an appointment with a veterinarian, as they can look at his mouth, let you know more what might be going on, and give you an idea as to treatment and cost.

Aug. 23, 2018

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Daisy

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long hair

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11 Years

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Fair severity

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1 found helpful

pill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filledpill-rating-filled

Fair severity

Has Symptoms

Clicking Noise

I recently started hearing a clicking noise when my cat is eating. I have also heard it when she cleans herself. I took her to the vet and he looked in her mouth and said everything looked good and I should just watch her. I’m still worried and want to make sure this the correct course of action since she never used to do this before.

Aug. 15, 2018

Daisy's Owner

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1 Recommendations

Without examining Daisy it is difficult to determine what the cause of the clicking noise is; if your Veterinarian has been unable to determine a cause you should keep a close eye on her and monitor for any other symptoms. If the noise continues or she start exhibiting pain it may be worth getting an x-ray done of the mouth and temporomandibular joint to look for any abnormalities. Regards Dr Callum Turner DVM

Aug. 15, 2018

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Tooth Decay Average Cost

From 525 quotes ranging from $200 - $2,000

Average Cost

$800

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