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Answers from vets about your cat:

Feline Tooth Resorption

Posted February 05, 2014 in Cat Diseases & Conditions A-Z

With February being Dental Awareness Month, I thought I would write about feline tooth resorption: one of the most common dental problems affecting cats.

What is tooth resorption?
Historically called feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL), cervical line lesions, neck lesions, feline caries, cervical line erosions or feline cavities the current term, according to the American Veterinary Dental College, is tooth resorption (TR). TR occurs when cells called odontoclasts destroy the tooth root surfaces by causing the enamel to be resorbed. As the disease progresses, the different layers of the tooth are resorbed and the pulp cavity becomes exposed, causing pain and sensitivity. The resorption continues until the tooth is weakened and ultimately fractures.

What causes tooth resorption?
The cause of these lesions is unknown; no one knows why odontoclastic cells begin to resorb the tooth root. Some researchers believe that infection or inflammation from periodontal disease may lead to the migration of odontoclastic cells into the area. Others believe that diet has a role in causing these lesions.

What cats are at risk of tooth resorption?
All cats can develop feline tooth resorption. In fact it’s one of the most common oral conditions seen in cats. Certain breeds of cats like Siamese, Persians, and Abyssinians appear to be more susceptible to the disease but again any cat can develop these lesions.

Symptoms of tooth resorption
Feline tooth resorptive lesions can cause many issues:

  • Pain
  • Mouth sensitivity
  • Tooth fractures
  • Tooth loss
  • Anorexia (inappetance)
  • Weight loss

Since, these lesions usually start at the gum line, they are often covered with gum tissue or tartar and therefore may be difficult to detect without a thorough oral examination. As the lesions progress you may notice drooling, trouble eating, reluctance to eat or a decrease in appetite and occasionally bloody saliva or swelling around the mouth and jaw.

Diagnosis of tooth resorption
Your veterinarian may identify a feline tooth resorptive lesion while performing an oral exam during your pet’s check-up or during a dental cleaning. Dental radiographs (x-rays) are necessary to properly evaluate the extent of tooth and tooth root damage and determine the appropriate treatment.

Treatment of tooth resorption
The treatment will depend on the lesion and the extent of tooth damage.

Some veterinary dentists will do a restorative treatment (filling) for mildly affected teeth.

Teeth with more damage should be extracted. Since feline tooth resorption is a progressive disease some veterinary dentists

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Ruth has more than 15 years of experience in the veterinary industry as a companion animal veterinarian in private practice. Along with being a writer and media personality, she is also a founding member of IDEXX’s Pet Health Network team.