Educational Articles

Cats + Dental

  • There are many reasons why your cat might need oral surgery. Acute sensitivity to plaque and oral tumors are two conditions that may require surgery. Your veterinarian may refer your cat to a board-certified dentist, surgeon, or oncologist. Prior to your cat’s surgery, blood tests will be performed in order to prepare a anesthetic protocol suitable for you cat. Post-surgery, anti-inflammatory medications may be administered as well as narcotic medications. Most cats recover with minimal discomfort and will need to eat soft food until healing is complete.

  • There are many causes of oral swellings, including local trauma, infection, fluid accumulation and tumors. If you find an oral swelling in your cat’s mouth, book an appointment with your veterinarian as soon as possible. Some oral swellings can be painful to touch, so to protect yourself from being bitten, do not touch the swelling. Your veterinarian will perform diagnostic tests such as intraoral radiographs, blood tests, and tissue sampling. Treatment and prognosis will depend on the cause.

  • Oral fibrosarcomas are the second most common malignant oral tumor in cats. These tumors arise from the connective and fibrous tissues of the oral cavity. These tumors may spread to the underlying bone causing pain. Treatment involves surgical removal of the tumors and radiation treatment may be considered if surgery is incomplete.

  • The most common oral tumor seen in cats is squamous cell carcinoma; the second most common is fibrosarcoma. Both of these tumors are locally aggressive, can grow to a large size very quickly, ulcerate, and cause considerable pain. Diagnosis may be performed through fine needle aspiration or biopsy. Metastasis to organs is not common with both tumor types; however, staging is recommended to choose therapy. Surgical excision provides the best control but may not be possible in some cases. Radiation therapy may provide some benefit either for primary control or after surgery.

  • Occasionally, teeth in cats do not erupt in the right location resulting in pain and poor function. The options include orthodontic appliances to move the teeth, extraction, or crown amputation with restoration. Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for cats. Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dental specialist (avdc.org) for advice or referral.

  • As in humans, cats have two sets of teeth. Kittens have 26 deciduous teeth and adult cats have 30 permanent teeth. By the time the average kitten reaches 6- 7 months of age, all 30 adult teeth will have erupted. Ideally, the baby tooth associated with that permanent tooth falls out. Sometimes, the permanent tooth erupts alongside the baby tooth, known as a persistent deciduous tooth. A persistent tooth occurs when the tooth root of a deciduous tooth is either incompletely resorbed or it did not resorb at all, and as a result does not fall out. This causes the permanent tooth to erupt at an abnormal angle or in an abnormal position. The end result is often crowding or malposition of the tooth (or teeth), causing a malocclusion. Early extraction in these cases will usually allow the adult teeth to move into their proper positions and prevent further malocclusion problems. If you notice any persistent teeth, take your cat to your family veterinarian as soon as possible for an oral examination.

  • Plaque forms on teeth shortly after eating and within 24 hours begins to harden and eventually turns into tartar. Tartar serves as a place for bacteria to grow, leading to gingivitis. As gingivitis worsens, periodontal disease develops which includes inflammation, pain, and tooth loss. Prevention of plaque and tartar build-up is key; use VOHC accepted food and/or water additives, wipe or brush your cat’s teeth daily, and have your veterinarian perform regular dental cleanings.

  • Dental X-rays in cats are similar to those taken in humans. In many cases, intraoral dental X-rays are necessary to identify and treat dental problems in your cat. Nearly two-thirds of each tooth is located under the gum line. Your cat will need to be anesthetized in order to accurately place the X-ray sensor and perform a thorough oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedures.

  • Tooth resorption in cats is a painful condition with an unknown cause. The most commonly affected teeth are the premolars of the lower jaws. Tooth resorption is divided into specific types based on the radiographic appearance of the tooth root. With Type 1, there is destruction of the crown, but the root retains a normal appearance with a discernible periodontal ligament. With Type 2, the root appears to be disintegrating and is not easily discernible from bone. Lesions that affect the tooth crown are very painful and require treatment. Cats with tooth resorption may show increased salivation, oral bleeding, or difficulty eating, as well as muscular spasms or trembling of the jaw whenever the lesion is touched. Treatment will be determined based on the type of tooth resorption your cat has.

  • A tooth root abscess develops when bacteria enter the exposed root canal of the tooth. If the protective tooth enamel is chipped exposing the underlying dentin or the pulp, bacteria can gain access to the center of the tooth causing an infection. A persistent infection can result in an abscess that may leak directly into the oral cavity or may leak out onto the skin. Any tooth can fracture; however, the large upper and lower canine teeth are the most commonly broken teeth. If your cat has an abscess, she may be reluctant to chew on her toys or she might pull away when her head is touched. A tooth root abscess is a very painful condition and needs to be treated as soon as possible. Antibiotics, anti-inflammatories, and/or pain relief medication will be prescribed. Treatment options include root canal therapy or extraction.