It's been noted that nearly half of the population of adult cats will experience tooth resorption. Unfortunately, many won't receive treatment due to the condition remaining undiagnosed. In today's post, our Doraville vets share the signs of tooth resorption to watch for and what can be done to treat your cat if it occurs.

Tooth Resorption in Cats

Tooth resorption occurs when the dentin (the hard tissue beneath a tooth's enamel) of a single tooth or multiple teeth begins to erode. Untreated, this process can result in irreparable damage as over time, tooth resorption can affect all of the components in your cat's affected tooth. The result of your cat's rotten tooth causing tooth resorption will be its body breaking down and absorbing the structures that form their tooth.

The process of tooth resorption will start with the outer enamel breaking down, and it will continue toward the center of the tooth. Eventually, most of the tooth will be gone, only leaving a raised bump on the gums. The premolars in the lower jaw (generally the third premolars) are the teeth that are most often affected by tooth resorption.

In some cases, the result will be a hole in the tooth that closely resembles a cavity. However, the difference between tooth resorption and cavities is that cavities are the result of bacteria, and resorption is caused by the body's biological process. Cavities are also fairly rare in cats, so if you see a hole in your cat's tooth that looks like a cavity, there's a chance that it is actually tooth resorption.

What are the different types of tooth resorption in cats?

Cats can experience two different types of tooth resorption. The type your cat has will be determined by the way the tooth appears on an X-ray. When a veterinarian takes a radiograph of a normal tooth it should show the tooth root with a thin dark outline surrounding it, that separates the root from the bone. The dark outline represents the periodontal ligament, which is a normal anatomic element that connects the bone and the root.

The two different types of tooth resorption are:

Type 1 Tooth Resorption

  • If your cat has type 1 tooth resorption, it means the tooth's crown is damaged, but on the X-ray, the root looks normal and the periodontal ligament can be easily recognized.

Type 2 Tooth Resorption

  • Also referred to as replacement resorption, if your cat is diagnosed with type 2 tooth resorption the tooth root will look like it is disintegrating, making it hard to differentiate from the bone on the radiograph.

What are the common symptoms of tooth resorption in cats?

Cats are stoic creatures, naturally inclined to hide signs of pain. So, although resorption can be very painful for cats, it can be hard for owners to recognize. Which is why it's very important to be able to recognize the signs and behaviors detailed below:

  • Increased Salivation
  • Difficulty Eating
  • Oral Bleeding
  • Behavioral Changes

What are the treatment options if your cat has tooth resorption?

If you think your cat may have tooth resorption, call your vet right away to book an examination for your kitty. If your veterinarian suspects your feline friend has this condition, they will conduct diagnostic tests like X-rays and a clinical screening while your cat is under anesthesia. Your vet may also perform a complete dental screening. Without these tests, your cat's tooth resorption will go undiagnosed. If your cat's tooth resorption goes untreated, it will continue to become more severe, causing your cat unnecessary pain.

Because this condition can be hard for pet parents to recognize, it's important to bring your kitty to the vet for routine dental exams and cleanings to give your vet the chance to detect this condition in its earliest forms.

If your vet diagnoses your cat with type 1 tooth resorption, they will likely need to extract your cat's tooth root and crown. If your kitty has type 2 tooth resorption, your vet may need to conduct a crown amputation with intentional root retention. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Contact our Doraville vets at WellPet Humane to learn more or to book a dental appointment and oral examination for your cat.