National Dental Month is here!
In honor of this month, we will discuss the most common dental lesion seen in cats: Resorptive lesions. The term “resorptive lesion” (RL) has gone through several name changes throughout the years and has also been called cervical line lesion, cervical neck lesion, and feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL). Some people have referred to them as feline cavities or caries; although, these terms are inaccurate, as the formation of RL have nothing to do with bacteria in the mouth.
Unfortunately, little is known about what triggers RLs to form, so we don’t have anything to prevent or treat them. What is known about RL is that the dentin (bony substance) of the tooth is gradually eroded away until the tooth either fractures or is completely destroyed. Lesions occur in 20-60% of cats and are most common in cats over 5 years-old. The most common teeth affected are the lower third premolars, but it can occur in any teeth. Cats that develop a lesion on one tooth are likely to develop lesions on other teeth over time. Some cats will end up losing all of their teeth.
So, how can you tell if your feline friend has a RL? The best way is a good oral examination and dental x-rays. Symptoms can be highly variable and can depend on the teeth affected and the cat’s pain tolerance. Initially, lesions start as a hot/cold sensitivity, and cats may prefer their food or water warmed (close to body temperature).
As lesions progress, teeth become painful. Cats that develop lesions on multiple teeth can experience chronic pain for months or years, until the teeth are either removed or completely resorbed. Symptoms can include, but are not limited to: change in food preference from hard to soft food or vice-versa, mouth odor, drooling, decreased appetite, dropping food from the mouth, tilting the head to chew on one side of the mouth, decreased activity, sleeping more, and sensitivity around the head or mouth (no longer likes being touched).
The only treatment for RL is complete extraction (removal) of the affected teeth as they occur. While nothing prevents them, some studies have found that a minimum of twice-weekly teeth brushing may help reduce the incidence of lesions forming. Commercial diets have also been implicated, as the prevalence of lesions has greatly increased since the 1960’s. Until more is known, it is best to try to feed cats a species-specific diet: a meat-based (muscle + organs) diet with little or no plant material. All cats should have a complete physical examination, including the mouth, at least yearly.
Don’t forget that for National Dental Month we are offering a discount on dental cleaning and anesthesia! Due to an overwhelming response to our dental special, we are extending the discount into March for those who were not able to schedule in February! =^_^=