Q: Our veterinarian told us our cat has cavities on three of her teeth, and that they must be pulled. This makes no sense: Clarabelle eats only cat food, not sweets, and does not seem to be in any pain. Please advise.
A: Feline tooth resorption syndrome, or TR, involves the destruction of dental material by cells called odontoclasts, leading to cavity-like lesions in up to two-thirds of cats.
While human cavities are caused by sugar-eating bacteria that produce tooth-destroying acid, TR has nothing to do a cat’s diet, and we don’t really know what causes it.
The one thing human and cat cavities have in common is that they’re invariably painful. Most cats will display no outward signs of pain even when their teeth are severely affected.
Signs of discomfort such as a messy eating style (food falling outside of bowl), tilting the head when eating (as if trying to chew on one side of the mouth) and regurgitating unchewed kibble soon after eating can be signs of trouble.
Unfortunately, treatment relies on the complete removal of the tooth. In cases where the tooth has been so compromised that the root has been reabsorbed, a crown reduction (eliminating the visible part of the tooth) may be the only required action. (The presence or absence of the tooth’s root can only be determined with dental X-rays.) Complete anesthesia and pain-relieving medications are required.
Sadly, there’s no way around extraction or crown reduction in Clarabelle’s case. The good news is that she’ll absolutely feel better as soon as the offending teeth are removed.
Dr. Patty Khuly has a veterinary practice in South Miami. Her website is drpattykhuly.com. Send questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.