Does my cat have a tooth ache?

Let’s face it, most cats don’t like their mouth being examined by their owner (or their vet). Cats are introverts when it comes to sharing their pain -they tend to go quiet and hide rather than shout it to anyone who is willing to listen. When it comes to dental pain most cats will still eat and groom themselves so many owners are unaware their cat has a sore mouth.

Dental disease is common in cats from quite a young age regardless of the type of diet (wet or dry ) they are fed.

There are many types of dental disease but the most common ones we see daily are

Periodontal disease is due to plaque, tartar (calcified food and bacteria) forming on the teeth and the bacteria in the plaque/tartar causes inflammation of the gums (gingivitis). If left untreated, the disease progresses under the gum along the root of the tooth and eventually the tooth becomes loose. Gingivitis is painful, it’s a low-grade dull throb. Despite the pain most cats continue to eat normally (if watched closely some cats are seen to swallow their food rather than chew). The only signs you may notice are bad breath, a red line in the gum just above the teeth and yellow/ brown looking teeth.

Resorptive lesions – these are very common in cats. The internal structure of the tooth gets “eaten away” (resorbed) and the enamel collapses into the tooth resulting in exposure of the pulp of the tooth. The pulp contains the blood vessels and nerve of the tooth so it’s extremely painful (sharp shooting pain) when that tooth is touched by saliva, food, the tongue etc. Again, most cats continue to eat they just avoid using that tooth to chew so with time periodontal disease (tartar and gingivitis) will also tend to develop on other teeth.

How is dental disease treated?
Periodontal disease treatment depends on its severity and can vary from a dental scale and polish to a scale and polish with tooth extractions, pain relief, and antibiotics. The chance of saving teeth increases if the scale and polish is done early in the disease process when the changes are reversible.

The only treatment for resorptive lesions is to extract the affected tooth. Although this may sound “radical” it removes the source of pain and the cats do so much better. i.e. it’s better to have no teeth than sore teeth!

How to prevent dental disease
Just like in humans the most effective method to reduce the incidence of dental disease is regular dental scale and polishes and daily home care.

Home care can involve
-brushing your cat’s teeth – this is the ideal method but it’s not for everyone but for those committed see http://partnersah.vet.cornell.edu/pet-owners/cat-teeth for a step by step training program
-Dental diets and treats – there are a few good diets on the market scientifically proven to reduce dental disease when used regularly e.g. Hill’s science diet T/d, Royal Canin dental, Greenies etc. For a list of approved products see http://www.vohc.org/VOHCAcceptedProductsTable_Cats.pdf

Good home care reduces the frequency of dental scales and polishes required to maintain their oral health and keep their mouth pain free.

If you are not sure if your cat is suffering a toothache in silence, call us to arrange a free dental check-up for your cat.