When a cat's body breaks down and absorbs the structures that support the tooth, we call this tooth resorption. In this blog, our Mamaroneck vets discuss the symptoms of tooth resorption in cats and how they can be treated.

What is tooth resorption in cats?

Tooth resorption happens when the dentin, the hard tissue under a tooth's enamel, erodes. If left untreated, it can cause irreversible damage.

Cats can develop tooth resorption when their bodies start breaking down and absorbing the structures that form the tooth. Typically, this condition starts in the enamel and progresses to the tooth's center, resulting in the complete disintegration of the tooth. The premolars in the lower jaw, commonly the third premolars, are most often affected.

Sometimes, a hole may form in the center of a cat's tooth, which may look similar to a cavity. However, cavities are caused by bacteria, whereas tooth resorption is triggered by a biological process within the body. Cavities are also relatively rare in cats. If you notice a hole in your cat's tooth that looks like a cavity or if your cat appears to be in severe pain due to a rotten tooth, tooth resorption may be the cause.

Tooth resorption is one of cats' most commonly diagnosed oral health conditions. It can cause significant pain, so taking your cat to the vet for regular dental exams and cleanings is important to identify the condition as early as possible.

Are there different types of tooth resorption?

Cats can develop two types of tooth resorption, which are determined by how the tooth appears on X-rays taken by a veterinarian to diagnose this condition. A normal tooth root should appear as a dark, thin outline that separates it from the bone.

This dark outline is the periodontal ligament, a normal anatomical element connecting the bone to the root.

The causes of each type of tooth resorption in cats are unknown. However, regular professional oral examinations, cleanings, and good oral hygiene practices at home can lower your cat's risk of developing this condition or detect it early. Here are the two types of tooth resorption in cats:

Type 1 Tooth Resorption

When cats have type 1 tooth resorption, it means the tooth's crown is damaged, but on the radiograph, the root looks normal, and the periodontal ligament can be easily recognized.

Type 2 Tooth Resorption

Also referred to as replacement resorption, this is where the root looks like it is disintegrating, making it hard to differentiate from the bone on the radiograph.

How do I know if my cat has tooth resorption?

Tooth resorption in cats can be extremely painful, but it can be difficult to identify because felines are skilled at concealing their discomfort. Therefore, it is crucial to be able to notice the typical indications and symptoms listed below:

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

How cats with tooth resorption can be treated?

If you suspect that your cat may have tooth resorption, it is important to contact your veterinarian immediately. To diagnose the condition, your vet will conduct a clinical screening and radiographs while your cat is under anesthesia. They may also perform a complete dental examination. Ignoring tooth resorption can lead to severe pain, infection, and even tooth loss. 

If your veterinarian diagnoses your cat with type 1 tooth resorption, they will most likely extract the root and crown. In the case of type 2 tooth resorption, a crown amputation with intentional root retention may be necessary. So, it is important to seek professional help as soon as possible if you notice any signs of tooth resorption in your cat.

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.

Do you suspect your cat may be suffering from tooth resorption? Please get in touch with our Mamaroneck veterinarians to book an appointment for an exam.