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Feline Dental / Periodontal Disease

Feline Dental / Periodontal Disease


Dental/Periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in the pet.  The sad truth is only about 10% of dogs and cats get routine professional dental cleanings.  As a result, some mouths develop into a factory for bacteria to invade the gums and bones as well as to travel to the heart valves, liver and kidneys.  

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This cat has a painful resorptive lesion.  The nerve root is exposed and will worsen if not treated.

These gums are red, painful and eroding due to infection. The roots of the teeth are becoming exposed as the bone is destroyed.  Soon the teeth will fall out.

Periodontal is entirely preventable.  By three years of age, most dogs and cats have some evidence of periodontal disease. Unfortunately, other than bad breath, there are few signs of the disease process evident to the owner, and professional dental cleaning and periodontal therapy often comes too late to prevent extensive disease or to save teeth. As a result, periodontal disease is usually under-treated, and may cause multiple problems in the oral cavity and may be associated with damage to internal organs in some patients as they age.

Periodontal disease begins when bacteria in the mouth form a substance called plaque that sticks to the surface of the teeth.  Subsequently, minerals in the saliva harden the plaque into dental calculus (tartar), which is firmly attached to the teeth. Tartar above the gum line is obvious to many owners but is not of itself the cause of disease.  

The real problem develops as plaque and calculus spread under the gum line. Bacteria in this ‘sub-gingival’ plaque set in motion a cycle of damage to the supporting tissues around the tooth, eventually leading to loss of the tooth. Bacteria under the gum line secrete toxins, which contribute to the tissue damage if untreated. These bacteria also stimulate the animal’s immune system. The initial changes cause white blood cells and inflammatory chemical signals to move into the periodontal space (between the gum or bone and the tooth). The function of the white blood cells is to destroy the bacterial invaders, but chemicals released by the overwhelmed white blood cells cause damage to the supporting tissues of the tooth. Instead of helping the problem, the patient’s own protective system actually worsens the disease when there is severe build-up of plaque and tartar.

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This cat has severe gingivitis with periodontal disease, gum erosion and infection

Periodontal disease includes gingivitis (inflammation [reddening] of the gums) and periodontitis (loss of bone and soft tissue around the teeth). There is a wide range in the appearance and severity of periodontal disease, which often cannot be properly evaluated or treated without general anesthesiafor veterinary patients. Effects within the oral cavity include damage to or loss of gum tissue and bone around the teeth, development of a hole (‘fistula’) from the oral cavity into the nasal passages causing nasal discharge, fractures of the jaw following weakening of the jaw bone, and bone infection (‘osteomyelitis’). Bacteria from the mouth can enter the bloodstream and are carried around the body. Studies in dogs have shown that periodontal disease is associated with microscopic changes in the heart, liver, and kidneys.  

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Feline Resorptive Disease

These cats have a painful mouth with bleeding gums and refuse to eat.


When you look at the teeth, and see some tartar, it doesn’t seem like much of a problem. Just scrape the tartar off and the teeth will look and feel better, and your pet’s breath will smell better. Job done right?


Wrong.  Here is the same tooth as it is being removed while this pet is under anesthesia. The root on the right is rotten, compare it to the normal root on the left. We did not know this pet had a rotten and painful root until we probed it and took radiographs. If this tooth had only been cleaned of tartar and not removed, this pet would have had a painful tooth indefinitely.

Studies in humans have linked periodontal disease to a variety of health problems including poor control of diabetes mellitus and increased severity of diabetic complications. Additionally, it has been shown that diabetes is a risk factor for periodontal disease.

Treatment of periodontal disease: If your pet has tartar or large amounts of plaque present,professional dental cleaningis required, which includes a thorough oral examination, scaling and polishing. Abnormalities found are recorded on a dental chart. Dental radiographsare required to correctly diagnose and assist in treatment of patients with extensive disease. When periodontitis is present the severely involved teeth are extracted.

Home oral hygienecan improve the periodontal health of the patient.  Implementing this at a young age can help your pet accept life-long oral care. Consult us about proven home oral hygienestrategies that can be employed to help maintain your pet’s dental health.   When properly cared for teeth can remain in healthy condition in the mouth and the risk of associated health complications can be reduced.

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