Most people are aware of the need for dental care for their pets, yet the number of cats that suffer silently in pain from dental pain is tremendous.
Cats are different just to be different?
The cat only has 28 teeth. The dog has 42 teeth and lacks the jaw structure to support them. This difference means that the dental abscesses and infected gums seen in the dog are seen less frequently in cats.
Instead, cats are plagued with resorption lesions (RL) in their teeth. Three out of four cats will develop multiple lesions in their lifetime. The cause of RL is poorly understood. Lesions start at or just below the gum line. Hidden beneath the gum, the body begins to destroy the roots by reabsorb them. This is a very painful process. Eventually the roots are completely reabsorb (disappear) and the crown(tooth above gum-line) falls out of the mouth. Like the dog’s mouth pain, this pain is subtle initially, ever increasing over time, forcing the cat to adapt and accept this pain as a way of life.
Seventy percent of the tooth is below the gum-line where are the destruction is happening. Only when advanced disease is presented are we able to detect absorptive lesions without dental radiographs (x-rays). Dental radiographs are important and necessary on every dental cleaning
Our current recommendations are that cats should have a yearly oral examination and dental cleaning under sedative. Because RL develop below the gum-line, we cannot visually see them. Therefore, full mouth dental x-rays are also recommended yearly for cats.