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There are many important reasons to bring your cat for its annual physical. One of these is to check for dental disease. Cats are very good at hiding their illnesses and you may not notice signs of dental disease until it is a major problem. Of course, you should not wait until your cat’s yearly physical if you are noticing signs of oral discomfort at home. These signs can include bad breath, decreased appetite, drooling and a swollen face.
Dental disease is one of the most common problems in cats. Cats accumulate tartar on their teeth which over time can extend under the gum line and cause infection. Daily brushing is ideal to prevent buildup of tartar, but this is difficult to accomplish in many cats. Regular dental procedures are required to keep teeth clean and healthy. This may need to be done yearly or even more frequently.
During the dental procedure, the teeth are probed to detect problems that cannot be seen just by looking. This can include resorptive lesions which are tiny holes that form along the gum line due to deterioration of calcium in the enamel and root of the tooth. Resorptive lesions are commonly found in cats but are rare in dogs. The exact cause of these lesions is unknown, but teeth with this issue are painful and need to be removed. Resorption starts on the outside of the tooth and progresses inward to cause structural damage. Resorptive lesions are difficult to detect during an awake examination, and even probing teeth under anesthesia may not reveal the full extent of the problem. Dental x-rays are needed to properly evaluate this condition because it may be hiding in the root of the tooth under the gums.
Some other oral conditions that can affect cats include an inflammatory condition in the mouth called stomatitis and certain types of oral cancer. Regular oral examinations along with observation for signs of oral discomfort at home are important to detect problems in your cat’s mouth.
—Dr. Lindsey Roth DVM