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Common Cat Dental Problems

Like humans, cats can also develop dental conditions and diseases that cause discomfort or pain. In this article, our vets in Woburn will discuss various types of dental diseases in cats, guide you on identifying them, and provide preventive measures.

Your cat's overall health and happiness depend significantly on its oral health. Feline companions utilize their mouths, teeth, and gums for essential functions such as eating and vocalizing. When these oral structures malfunction or cause discomfort, it hampers their effectiveness and leads to their discomfort and pain.

Furthermore, the bacteria and infections responsible for many oral health problems can spread beyond your cat's mouth if left untreated. This can result in the circulation of infection and bacteria throughout your pet's body, potentially harming vital organs such as the kidneys, liver, and heart, thereby causing more severe health issues.

Symptoms Of Dental Disease In Cats

Different oral health issues may exhibit varying specific symptoms. If you observe any of the following behaviors or symptoms in your cat, it indicates a potential case of dental disease:

Symptoms of dental disease may encompass:

  • Bad breath (halitosis)
  • Excessive drooling
  • Weight loss
  • Difficulty with or slow eating
  • Missing or losing teeth
  • Visible tartar
  • Bleeding, swollen, or noticeably red gums
  • Pawing at their teeth or mouth

If you notice any of the above signs of dental disease in your cat, bring them to your Woburn vet as soon as possible for examinations. The sooner your cat's dental disease is diagnosed, the better.

Common Dental Diseases In Cats

A wide range of health issues can affect your cat's gums, teeth, and other oral structures. Here are seven common ones to watch out for.

1. Bad Breath (Halitosis)

Your cat could have unpleasant breath due to multiple issues affecting the oral cavity, ranging from gum disease to infections of the teeth, gums, or oral structures. Halitosis could also be an indication of an underlying systemic disease like diabetes or kidney disease.

2. Periodontal Disease

About 70% of all cats are estimated to develop some form of periodontal disease by the time they reach the age of 3.

This disease results from a bacterial infection found in plaque, which is the soft film of bacteria and food debris that accumulates on teeth throughout the day.

Neglecting regular brushing or cleaning of your cat's plaque will cause it to harden, forming tartar that extends beneath the gumline.

As the bacteria become trapped below your cat's gumline and adhere to its teeth, they will start to irritate and erode the supportive structures of your cat's teeth.

If left untreated, periodontal disease will lead to severe gum infections, tooth loss, and organ damage as the bacteria spreads throughout your pet's body.

3. Infection

Injuries, foreign objects lodged in the mouth, dental issues, immune system problems, and various dental conditions can all lead to infections in the oral cavity.

Infections cause gum tissue to swell and become red, and when they're confined to a specific area, they form an abscess, which can be excruciatingly painful, just like in humans.

When an abscess is diagnosed, immediate treatment is crucial. This treatment includes extracting the infected tooth or performing a root canal, alongside administering antibiotics and managing pain.

4. Stomatitis

Feline stomatitis causes excruciating inflammation and ulceration, resulting in painful sores on your cat's gums, cheeks, and tongue. While certain breeds, such as Persians and Himalayans, have a higher predisposition to this condition, any cat can develop stomatitis.

Cats afflicted with stomatitis endure severe pain and decreased appetites. In some instances, they may become malnourished due to the unbearable pain associated with eating.

Mild cases of stomatitis in cats can be managed with at-home care, but severe cases necessitate surgical intervention.

5. Fractured Teeth

Cats frequently experience fractured teeth, especially at the tips of their fangs. Small fractures can expose the tooth's root due to the internal tooth pulp extending nearly to the end of the tooth, leading to significant discomfort for the cat.

Fractures can manifest both above and below the gum line, with affected teeth often appearing grayish. Fractures above the gum line are easily visible, but some may extend beneath it, resulting in a similar gray appearance.

To determine the appropriate treatment, it is crucial to consult a veterinary professional, as the severity of the fracture varies. Neglecting these fractures can result in additional problems, such as abscesses or infections.

6. Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption in cats is the slow deterioration of a tooth or multiple teeth in your cat's mouth. This is a relatively common condition in cats, potentially affecting up to three-quarters of middle-aged and older cats.

When a cat suffers from tooth resorption, its body begins to break down its tooth's hard outer layer, loosening it and causing pain. This destruction occurs below your cat's gumline, so it can be quite challenging to detect without a dental X-ray. However, if your cat suddenly prefers soft foods or swallows its food without chewing, it may suffer from this condition.

7. Cancer

Oral cancer is one of the most commonly occurring feline cancers, potentially affecting the animal's gums, tongue, jawbone, lips, or palate. Cats afflicted with oral cancer may develop oral masses, facial swelling, drooling, loss of weight, sudden loss of teeth, and halitosis. 

For the best chance at treating oral cancer, early detection is key. Masses and other signs of cancer can be detected during routine dental cleanings and examinations, which is why taking your cat's preventive care seriously is important. 

Preventing Dental Disease In Cats

Like humans, the most effective way to prevent dental disease and other oral issues in your cat is by regularly brushing and cleaning their mouth. Brushing or wiping away plaque before it can cause damage or infection significantly increases the chances of maintaining your cat's teeth and gums in good health.

To achieve optimal results, initiate the practice of cleaning your cat's teeth and gums while they are still kittens, as they can quickly adapt to the process.

In addition to at-home brushing, scheduling regular dental checkups with your vet once your cat reaches one year of age is crucial. These visits will include professional cleanings and oral health treatments, helping to prevent disease and maintain your cat's oral well-being.

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

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