An area of small animal medicine that is often overlooked is cat tooth care. Cats, being carnivorous animals, eat food that is less than optimal in terms of restricting microbial growth. Bad teeth in a cat can lead to terrible breath, which is unpleasant for you, and discomfort, which is very unpleasant for the animal.
Tooth resorption is a condition commonly known as a cavity. It is caused when the cat does not have its teeth cleaned regularly, and food material gets stuck on and in between the teeth. This food material then becomes a breeding ground for certain types of bacteria, which can also break down the material that makes up the teeth. This causes the teeth to get soft spots, which can potentially spread over the whole tooth, causing it to erode away. It is called tooth resorption because the soft, lesion area that the bacteria create is slowly reabsorbed by the body. The root of the tooth is then also reabsorbed.
Any tooth can be subject to resorption, but it is most commonly the molars that are affected. The lesion usually starts at the base of the tooth, where it touches the gum, but in later stages it can range over the whole tooth. Exactly why the cat's body reabsorbs the damaged tooth material is still unknown, but it is generally assumed to be an autoimmune response. It is hard to spot tooth resorption in your pet, because the only way to see the cavities is to look directly into the cat's mouth. Some symptoms you can look for are difficulty eating, excessive salivation, or bleeding at the mouth. Tooth resorptions are painful, so do not leave your cat untreated if it suffers from one.
Another oral disease common to cats is gingivostomatitis. It is an inflammation of tissue all around the mouth, especially adjacent to the teeth. The cause of gingivostomatitis, like that of tooth resorption, is still unknown, but it is also suspected to be an autoimmune response.
Since most oral diseases in cats are caused by a buildup of food material, otherwise known as plaque, the best way to keep your cat from developing dental issues is to keep his mouth clean. The best way to do this is to brush your cat's teeth, similarly to how you should brush your own. Do not use toothpaste designed for humans to brush your cat's teeth. There are toothpastes made specifically for cats, some of which kill bacteria in plaque. Brush the teeth with a brush with a small head. Toothbrushes made for puppies are perfect. Some veterinarians recommend special antiseptic rinses as a supplement to brushing, which are good for treating gingivostomatitis. These rinses can also be used as a replacement for brushing if the cat will not tolerate you putting a brush in his mouth.
Many people who truly care about the health of their pets do not think to maintain their cat's mouth, which make oral diseases one of the most common health problems for cats. Take a look inside your cat's mouth from time to time, because any outward symptom of oral disease usually means the problem is serious, and has probably been developing for a while.