January and February are dental awareness months here at Mt. Carmel Animal Hospital. All our dental procedures are 20% off, which makes a necessary medical procedure a little more manageable financially! While there are many reasons to perform dental procedures on our furry friends, they are especially important for our feline companions. Cats have a particular issue called Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs). While we don’t know the underlying cause for these dental changes, we do know what they do to the teeth of cats: cause them to dissolve.
The tricky thing about these types of lesions is where they occur. Typically this dissolution occurs under the gumline at the root level. As we cannot always see these lesions on a basic physical exam, they frequently go unnoticed during a yearly check-in. If they are more progressed, cats can show an aversion to hard food, excessive drooling or abnormal lip smacking. Other times cats start dropping hard food out of their mouth while chewing. These lesions can be quite painful, which is the cause of these clinical signs. If we are able to see evidence of FORLs above the gumline, these are typically more advanced cases. The gumline at the affected teeth frequently is very red and inflamed.
The treatment of choice for these lesions is to remove the affected teeth. Due to the fact that they are actively dissolving when they are found, there is little that can be done to save them. There are cats that, over the course of their lives, have all their teeth surgically extracted due to the recurrence of such lesions. As these are very painful for cats, after their post-surgical pain is controlled they are much more comfortable. Even cats with no teeth are able to eat hard food once the source of their discomfort is gone!
Similar to when we go to the dentist, xrays are key to diagnosing underlying dental issues. There is a large portion of a dental exam that occurs under the gumline, which can’t be seen by the naked eye. As our dog and cat friends don’t say “aahhh” and open wide very well on their own, they do require general anesthesia for a full dental exam and dental xrays. This allows a full examination, dental probing, cleaning and dental xrays to be done safely and easily. If you are concerned that your feline friend may be suffering from dental issues, give us a call today!