Cats can suffer dental disease and other oral health issues just as dogs, and even people, can. In fact, roughly two-third of cats over the age of three suffer some degree of dental disease. Unfortunately, oral health is frequently overlooked and/or neglected in cats.
Cats can suffer from plaque build-up and tartar/calculi accumulation both above and below the gumlike, just like dogs. They also commonly develop gingivitis (inflammation of the gums) and other forms of periodontal disease as a result.
However, there are some forms of oral disease that are seen more commonly in cats than in dogs. Stomatitis is a good example. Stomatitis is inflammation of the mucous tissues of the mouth. In cats, stomatitis can become quite widespread, involving not only the gum tissue on the upper and/or lower jaw, but also sometimes the pharynx (throat area) and even the tongue. Depending on the extent of the disease, it is also sometimes referred to as gingivostomatitis.
Stomatitis is thought to be an extreme reaction to plaque or tartar on the teeth. An association with infectious diseases such as feline leukemia, feline AIDS and Bartonella has been suggested also, but these diseases have not been concretely proven to be a cause of stomatitis at this time.
Prevention and control of feline stomatitis is through good oral care, with regular veterinary cleanings and routine tooth brushing at home to keep plaque, tartar and calculi at a minimum. In some cases, particularly when it is impossible to care for the cat’s teeth properly at home, extraction of the teeth is recommended. It may be necessary to remove all of the teeth for your cat, or your veterinarian may recommend removing your cat’s back teeth, leaving only the canine teeth and incisors. This will depend on your cat’s individual situation.
Feline oral resorptive lesions, sometimes referred to as FORLs, is another common tooth disease in cats, in which there are areas where the tooth is actually being resorbed. They are sometimes also called neck lesions because they frequently occur at the “neck” of the tooth, near the gumline. FORLs are extremely painful lesions and more than one tooth may be affected. Though restoration of these teeth is an option, some veterinarians believe that extraction is the treatment of choice because of the likelihood that these lesions will progress. Your veterinarian will help you make the correct choice for your cat if your cat suffers from this type of lesion.
Regular veterinary checkups are a necessity for all cats and an oral examination should be part of the routine veterinary examination. Your veterinarian will check your cat’s mouth for evidence of plaque accumulation, periodontal disease, stomatitis, FORLs, broken teeth, tumors/growths, and other diseases that could cause problems for your cat.
More information about feline oral resortive lesions, stomatitis and other feline oral health care issues is available through the American Veterinary Dental Society and the Ameican Veterinary Dental College.
Dr. Lorie Huston