My cat is reluctant to chew hard food and I noticed that some of her teeth are partly pink in color. She seems uncomfortable. What can I do to help her?
What you are describing is likely a condition called feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions or FORL’s. This occurs when the softer middle layer of the tooth (dentin) gets eaten away and the hard enamel cover flakes off exposing the sensitive inner root. Affected teeth can have lesions that are below the gum-line, at the gum-line, and above the gum-line. In your cat’s case, it sounds like the lesions are advanced and above the gum-line because the “pink” areas on the teeth are actually exposed tooth roots. When touched they are very painful, similar to pain we would feel if we needed a root canal. Even with this severe pain, many affected cats show minimal outward signs; however, owners will often note that their cats become more spry and friendly once the dental disease is treated.
Some studies report that up to 75% of all cats are affected with FORL’s. Once the disease has led to root exposure, it is necessary to extract the tooth to allow the gums to heal and take away the source of pain. Over the years, I have seen cats with only a few lesions and other cats that had almost all of their teeth affected. Currently, there is no prevention for this condition. Regular dental inspections and dental x-rays are needed to detect newly affected teeth and determine when extractions are necessary to keep the cat happy and pain-free. Dental exams should ideally be performed on an annual or semi annual basis to ensure that your cat is not living in pain. Many clinics, including my own, offer free dental exams and discounted dentistry in the month of February in recognition of “Pet Dental Month.”
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Max Conn, DVM is the owner of Cat & Exotic Care of the CentralCoast, a full service veterinary hospital dedicated to the special needs of cats, birds, reptiles and small mammals. Cat & Exotic Care is located in PismoCoastPlaza, 565 Five Cities Drive, 805-773-0228. More information can be found at www.catandexoticcare.com.
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