Tooth Pathology In Cats

Tooth Pathology In Cats


Dental health in cats is super important, yet many of us don't give it the attention it deserves. Our furry friends can face many dental problems, just like humans. What's interesting is that their food and the vitamins or minerals they take can influence their dental health. If we get the connection right, we can help our cats have a better, pain-free life from common tooth problems and with a big shining smile! 
Let’s learn about common dental diseases, signs, and preventive measures.


The Prevalence of Dental Disease in Cats

Dental diseases in cats aren't just occasional occurrences; they're alarmingly common. Dental issues are among the top medical conditions that veterinarians encounter in their practice often. By the time cats reach the age of three, over half of them will have some dental problem. This highlights the importance of why we should make sure our cats get regular dental check-ups and why we need to be aware of the different dental problems they can face.


Common Dental Diseases in Cats

1. Gingivitis

Gingivitis is the inflammation of the gums, and this is the earliest phase of periodontal disease and is primarily caused by the accumulation of plaque on the teeth. This condition can also be seen in feline immunodeficiency virus (FIV).


The primary culprit behind gingivitis is plaque, a sticky film of bacteria that forms on the teeth; when plaque isn't addressed promptly, it can eventually harden into tartar, which escalates gum irritation and triggers inflammation. 

Role of Plaque

Plaque accumulation is a natural process, but when it's not removed, it can lead to severe dental issues.  The bacteria present within this plaque release toxins, causing gums to become irritated. That can lead them to adopt a red hue, swell, and bleed with ease.

Progression of Gingivitis if Left Untreated

  1. Initial plaque build-up on the teeth.

  2. The progression from simple plaque build-up to tartar formation is inevitable if left unchecked, causing further irritation to the gums.

  3. Reddening and swelling of the gums.

  4. Bleeding gums, especially during brushing or eating.

  5. Deepening of the space (or pocket) between the tooth and gum

  6. That can lead to more severe forms of periodontal disease..

2. Periodontal Disease

Periodontal disease is a progression from gingivitis and affects the supporting structures of the teeth, including the gums, bone, and connective tissues.

As gingivitis progresses, it extends its reach deeper into the tooth's supporting structures, potentially leading to the deterioration and eventual loss of these critical supports and possibly the tooth itself. That can lead to losing these support structures and, eventually, the tooth itself.

Plaque and tartar do more than just irritate the gums; they create a conducive environment for harmful bacteria, contributing to infections that compromise the integrity of soft tissue and the bones securing the teeth. These bacteria can cause infections that damage the soft tissue and bone that anchor the teeth.

Symptoms Specific to Periodontal Disease in Cats:

  • Bad breath.
  • Loose or missing teeth.
  • Discolored teeth covered in tartar.
  • Drooling or dropping food from the mouth.
  • Noticeable discomfort when mouth area is touched or during eating.

Consequences of Untreated Periodontal Disease:

  • Potential effects on significant organs: Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and affect major organs like the heart, liver, and kidneys.
  • Loss of teeth due to weakened support structures.
  • Pain and discomfort make it difficult for the cat to eat.
  • Potential development of abscesses and cysts in the mouth.

3. Tooth Resorption

Tooth resorption is akin to the tooth being eaten away from the inside out. While the phenomenon isn't solely observed in cats, it has been identified to have a notably high occurrence among the feline family, making it a significant concern in their dental health. It's a process where the tooth structure starts to break down and get absorbed back into the body, leading to visible "holes" or lesions in the affected teeth.

Importance of Extraction: The most humane and effective treatment is the extraction of the affected tooth, if we leave this tooth in place, it causes an intense pain that can affect the cat's mouth and its overall health

Potential Role of Poor Oral Hygiene: 

Well, the exact cause of tooth resorption is unknown, but poor oral hygiene is a potential contributor that a regular dental check-up and cleanliness can manage; it can also help in early detection.

Comparison of Tooth Resorption with Other Dental Diseases:
Disease Primary Symptom Cause Treatment
Tooth Resorption "Holes" in affected teeth Unknown, possibly poor hygiene Extraction of the affected tooth
Gingivitis Red, swollen gums Accumulation of Plaque  Dental cleaning, improved hygiene
Periodontal Disease Loose or missing teeth Advanced gingivitis and plaque Deep cleaning, possible extractions

Signs of Dental Disease in Cats

When it comes to our feline friends, they're pretty adept at hiding discomfort or pain, but dental diseases often manifest in such ways that even the most secretive cat can't hide its symptoms. If we recognize these signs early, it can make a significant difference in management. And even preventing dental issues.

Halitosis (Bad Breath): While it's common to joke about "kitty breath," persistent bad breath can be a red flag. It's often an indicator of underlying dental issues or infections.
Changes in Eating Habits Leading to Weight Loss: Dental discomfort can alter a cat’s eating patterns, potentially leading them to either consume less or be selective about their food, which, over prolonged periods, can manifest as noticeable weight loss.

Common Symptoms

  • Pawing at the Mouth: Cats might frequently paw at their mouths, indicating discomfort or pain.
  • Head-Shaking: This can be a sign of irritation or something lodged between the teeth of the cat.
  • Jaw Chattering: Its most common sign, often seen after eating or drinking, that can indicate dental pain.
  • Difficulty Eating: Cats might drop food, eat on one side of their mouth, or show reluctance to chew hard food.

Preventive Measures to Avoid These Symptoms

  • Regular dental check-ups with a veterinarian.
  • Providing dental toys or treats that help clean the teeth.
  • Brushing your cat's teeth regularly with cat-specific toothpaste.
  • Offering a balanced diet that supports dental health.
  • Avoid sugary treats or foods that can lead to plaque build-up.

The Role of Diet and Supplements in Dental Health

Have you ever heard the saying "You are what you eat"? Well, It isn't just applicable to humans it also applies to our cats. The diet of our cats plays a pivotal role in their dental well-being and overall health.

  • A balanced diet can ensure that cats get the necessary nutrients for strong teeth and healthy gums. On the flip side, a poor diet can lead to some severe tooth troubles.
  • Vitamins and minerals, like calcium and phosphorus, are essential for dental health. Plus, there are some special supplements out there that have proven to help slow down the build-up of icky plaque and tartar on their teeth.
  • The pet food industry has seen food innovations designed to reduce tartar accumulation. These foods often have a specific texture, so when cats chew, it helps clean their teeth.
  • Cats need their teeth brushed, too—just like us! And if we do it regularly, it can keep a lot of dental problems away. But remember: always use toothpaste made just for pets. It's safer, and cats seem to like it more, making brushing a win-win for everyone!


Benefits of Specific Supplements on Feline Dental Health:

Supplement Benefit
Probiotics Can help balance oral bacteria and reduce bad breath.
Enzymatic Toothpaste Helps break down plaque and tartar.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids Supports gum health and reduces inflammation.
Antioxidants Can support overall oral health.
Dental Chews Designed to clean teeth and reduce tartar build-up.


Our cats' dental health is a window into their overall well-being. While some dental conditions are more prevalent than others, understanding the signs, causes, and treatments can make all the difference. As pet parents, it's our responsibility to ensure our feline friends receive the best care possible, including looking after their pearly whites. Regular vet visits, a balanced diet, and a dash of attention to their oral hygiene can ensure they flash those healthy feline smiles for years.

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