This radiograph shows 2 relatively healthy teeth next to a tooth so seriously affected by reabsorption that the crown of the tooth has broken off.

 

For cats, a disease known as tooth resorption is the most common reason for dental/tooth extraction. This is a progressively destructive condition causing irreversible damage to teeth. To date, the only appropriate treatment identified is the extraction of affected teeth.

 

 

 

 

This condition has been recognized for many years and a great deal of information on how the disease occurs and how it responds to various treatments has been compiled by the veterinary community.  The damage to the teeth begins with the patient’s body breaking down the bony parts of the teeth. Plaque, the film of bacteria and food particles that adheres to teeth, contributes to this process but is not the only factor. Often tooth resorption begins well below the gum line and cannot be recognized except by use of dental radiographs/x-rays (a routine part of anesthetic dental treatment at Animal Kind) and dental probing under general anesthesia.  At this stage, there are usually no symptoms shown by the cat. However, as the tooth becomes progressively weaker and the bony destruction spreads, patients will develop painful areas where the sensitive pulp of the tooth is exposed, or even have the crown of the tooth fracture or break which is acutely very painful.  When this occurs, you may observe your cat drooling, losing interest in food, pawing at their face, or even bleeding from the mouth.

This cat has serious resorptive lesions in all 3 teeth seen in this image.

 

Many species develop tooth reabsorption but it is most common in cats.  This disease occurs in male and female cats of all breeds beginning as early as 2 to 4 years of age and becoming more likely as our pets age. Purebred cats seem to be affected earlier in life than mixed breeds. We know that most cats who develop tooth resorption will have multiple teeth affected by the disease over time. Cats develop this disease on various types of diet and no specific diet has been shown to decrease disease occurrence.

 

For obvious reasons, there is great interest in identifying ways to protect our cats from this disease. At this time the only measure proven effective at decreasing occurrence of this condition is to brush a cat’s teeth twice a week or more. Unfortunately, for now, extraction of teeth showing resorption is the only available treatment for preventing ongoing pain for our cats.