Taking a Bite Out of Pain

By February 11, 2020 Dental/Surgery

Tooth resorption is the most common dental problem in cats. It affects 30-40% of cats worldwide, and while dogs can also have resorptive lesions, it affects them less frequently. Tooth resorption is also known as cavities/caries, neck lesions, feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs), or cervical line erosions.

No one really know what causes tooth resorption. Several theories have been proposed, such as an autoimmune response, calicivirus infection, or metabolic imbalances caused by improper calcium regulation. However, all tooth-saving treatments have been shown to have poor results.

The lower premolars are frequently affected, but tooth resorption can be found on any tooth. FORLs can be seen in cats starting at 2 years of age and the number of lesions increases with age. There is no breed or sex disposition, and neutering/spaying was not found to be a factor. If a cat has a FORL on one tooth, it is safe to assume that the cat is high risk for other teeth to be eventually affected.

Cats can show pain and jaw spasms (chatters) whenever the lesions are touched. Others show drooling, sneezing, bleeding, or difficulty eating. Most people do not realize their cats have FORLS as most domestic cats do not chew their kibble or wet foods.

There are five recognized stages of tooth resorption:

  1. Stage 1 – Only an enamel defect is noted. The lesion is usually minimally sensitive because it has not entered the dentin.
  2. Stage 2 – The lesion penetrates enamel, cementum and dentin.
  3. Stage 3 – Resorption progresses into the pulp chamber (nerve). The crown of the tooth should still be intact.
  4. Stage 4 – Large amounts of the tooth’s hard structure has been destroyed.
  5. Stage 5 – Most of the tooth has been resorbed, leaving only a bump covered by gum tissue.

Dental radiographs are necessary to evaluate the teeth and determine the best course of therapy. Treatment involves either extraction of the entire tooth and roots, or a partial tooth extraction (crown amputation).

While dental home care (tooth brushing, VOHC-labelled dental diets and treats) is an important tool in preventing periodontal disease and other oral problems, unfortunately nothing can be done at home to prevent FORLs. If you are concerned that your pet may have FORLs or other dental issues, please call the team at Edgemont Veterinary Clinic and we can take a look at your pet.