Tooth resorption affects 20-60% of all cats, its cause is unknown and it is very painful. Tooth resorption occurs when cells called odontoclasts destroy the roots of a tooth by resorbing the enamel and as the condition progresses, it destroys more of the tooth eventually affecting the crown (the portion that can be seen during an oral exam).
How are resorptive lesions diagnosed?
Your veterinarian may discover the presence of one or multiple resorptive tooth lesions during your pet’s regular physical examination. Although the premolars of the lower jaw are most commonly affected, lesions can be found on any tooth. A cat may or may not show signs of oral pain but, redness of the gums and chattering when the affected tooth is probed are indications that a tooth may be resorbing (and is painful!). In advanced cases, the cat may salivate excessively, bleed from the oral cavity and/or have difficulty eating. Dental radiographs performed under general anesthetic will confirm that a resorptive lesion is present.
How are resorptive lesions treated?
The only treatment for resorptive lesions is extraction of the affected teeth. Dental radiographs are important with regards to tooth resorption in two ways. Radiographs may identify the resorbing roots of a tooth that has no visible evidence of resorption of the crown. Also, root resorption may be so advanced that the roots of the tooth do not need to be extracted. Instead, a crown amputation may be performed. Crown amputations are performed by separating the crown from the roots, smoothing the rough surface of the roots and suturing the gums closed.
Following surgery, the patient’s pain will be managed with pain medications. Approximately one week after surgery, your veterinarian will perform a complimentary re-check oral exam to ensure your pet’s mouth is healing properly. They will inform you if they are ready to return to their normal daily activities or if they still need a bit more time to heal. Once healed, a dental home care plan should be implemented. Unfortunately, a cat that has had one resorptive lesion is likely to develop more resorptive lesions during their life.
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