Dental Surgery for Cats

Dental surgery may be required for your cat if she has advanced gum disease, lesions in her teeth or a broken tooth. Signs that a cat may have a dental problem include bad breath, red and swollen gums, poor appetite, weight loss, pawing at the mouth and refusal to eat hard food. Contact your veterinarian’s office for a dental appointment if your cat shows any of these signs.

Periodontal Disease Is Common

Periodontal disease is the most common dental problem that affects pet cats. About 85 percent of cats older than 6 years have some form of gum disease. In periodontal disease, plaque accumulates on the cat’s tooth surfaces and forms tartar. The tartar hardens and irritates the gums, leading to an inflammation called gingivitis. Left untreated, periodontal disease can lead to tooth loss and dental surgery for your cat.

Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions

Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, or FORLs, affect at least half of all pet cats. FORLs begin as small pits in the enamel of a cat’s premolars and molars. These pits get progressively larger and eventually invade the tooth enamel to attack the tooth’s pulp. Red gum tissue develops near the lesion, and the cat develops a sensitivity in that part of her mouth. FORLs require dental surgery to be treated effectively.

Broken Teeth

Although cats do not break their teeth as often as dogs do, feline teeth can and do fracture, especially the canine teeth. Since the pulp of a cat’s canine tooth extends to the tooth tip, any fracture needs to be treated promptly to restore the health of the tooth.

A root canal or pulpectomy may be recommended if the broken tooth is treated promptly, either of which will likely save the tooth. If ignored, a fractured tooth can become infected and may need to be extracted.

Other Problems of the Feline Mouth

Plasmacytic/lymphocytic stomatitis, or PLS, is a condition that affects all parts of a cat’s mouth. Possible causes include an over-response by the cat’s immune system to plaque in her mouth, a suppressed immune system or an underlying infection.

PLS clinical signs include inflammation and bleeding from the gums, tongue and lips; bad breath; appetite and weight loss; eating problems; and lethargy. Treatment options include antibiotics, steroids, pain medications and eventual tooth extraction.

Feline gingivitis/stomatitis syndrome is a somewhat rare condition that mostly affects cats with another underlying condition, such as FIV or FeLV.  Signs of this condition can include excessive drooling, irritability, reluctance to eat, bad breath and bleeding gums. Treatment includes regular professional and at-home tooth cleaning, supplemented by antibiotics and other medications. However, many cats with this syndrome end up having their teeth extracted because it is the best alternative for their situations.

Juvenile gingivitis sometimes occurs in kittens between the ages of 6 to 9 months. Possible causes include a virus, a breed predisposition (Persians, Siamese and Abyssinians seem prone to the problem) or an immune suppression issue. Treatment includes professional cleaning and at-home followup to control plaque and tartar.