Dental disease is a painful condition that occurs when bacteria, plaque, and tartar build up on the teeth and become trapped beneath the gum line. This can lead to the absorption of bacteria into the bloodstream, causing harm to major organs in the body. Dental disease commonly starts early in a pet's life, and by the age of three, most cats already have some degree of dental disease. Early signs of dental disease include bad breath, yellow tartar buildup on the teeth, and red and swollen gums. Detecting dental disease in its early stages is crucial as it can progress to cause chronic pain and inflammation if left untreated. To ensure early detection and prevent negative impacts on your pet's quality of life, AAHA recommends dental evaluations as part of your cat's regular preventive care exam, which should take place at least once a year.
Dental disease causes significant and chronic pain in pets. Unfortunately, by the time dental disease is discovered, it is often after years of tartar, plaque, and bacteria buildup, resulting in infection, inflammation, and diseased teeth. Your pet may have already endured significant and life-altering pain. Animals are skilled at hiding signs of pain, so it may go unnoticed by you. Instead, you may observe that your cat is increasingly irritable, lethargic, and has a decreased appetite, which could be attributed to your cat's advancing age or other factors. However, after a proper and thorough dental procedure, many pet owners report a remarkable transformation in their pets—a happier and more active companion.
Other signs of dental pain may include pawing at the mouth, chewing on one side, dropping food when eating, reluctance to eat dry food, or any food at all, salivation, jaw chattering, and a new unwillingness to be touched around the head.
At our veterinary hospital, we have a state-of-the-art dental suite where we perform dental prophylaxis (cleaning) procedures under general anesthesia. Our comprehensive approach includes a thorough oral health assessment by the veterinarian and full mouth digital radiographs. Most concerns can be addressed during the same procedure, including the extraction of any diseased teeth. In some cases, we may recommend a referral to a veterinary dentist for specialized care.
Dental x-ray revealing tooth and root damage due to tooth resorption
Feline resorptive lesions (FORLs) are one of the most common dental findings in cats. These lesions are essentially "holes" that occur in the teeth and can be extremely painful. If left untreated, the disease will progress, and the affected tooth may ultimately fracture, causing even more significant pain. Extraction is the recommended treatment to halt the disease process and alleviate the pain. The presence of resorption can only be confirmed through dental radiographs. At our facility, all dental procedures include full mouth digital dental radiographs to ensure comprehensive evaluation and treatment.
Oral ulcers of stomatitis
We commonly address stomatitis in cats at our feline-exclusive facility, often providing second or third opinions for cats dealing with it chronically. Feline stomatitis is believed to be an exaggerated immune response to plaque, where the cat becomes allergic to its own teeth. This condition leads to significant gingivitis and inflammation of the gum tissue, resulting in severe pain and difficulty eating. The treatment of choice is to reduce the plaque-retentive surfaces in the mouth, usually through the extraction of multiple teeth. After a thorough sedated oral exam and full mouth x-rays, our veterinarian determines which teeth need to be extracted. In severe cases, all of the teeth may need to be surgically removed. Fortunately, domesticated cats do not require their teeth to survive, and the mouth heals quickly. After the procedure, cats often experience improved eating habits.
Many pet owners wonder why their cats need to be sedated for a dental cleaning (prophy). Anesthesia is employed to ensure a safer and less stressful experience for your cat during the dental procedure. Sharp and sterilized instruments are used by veterinarians and technicians to perform the cleaning, and animals typically do not cooperate by staying still for X-rays or tolerating the use of these instruments to clean their teeth. By administering anesthesia, your veterinarian can make a more accurate diagnosis and minimize the risk of complications. Your cat will rest comfortably during the procedure while our veterinary team safely performs a thorough and proper dental cleaning.
Anesthesia is much safer than it may initially seem. Before administering anesthesia, we carefully screen your cat with blood work and other tests to ensure they are free from underlying diseases. During the dental procedure, a trained professional closely monitors and records vital signs while communicating any findings to the veterinarian.