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Tooth Resorption in cats – Painfully Common Dental Disease

Did you know your cat can get a cavity? Cats can get a painful condition known as FORLs (Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions) or feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions. These tooth defects affect more than half of all cats older than 3 years old. They are usually found on the outside of the tooth near the junction of the gum with the enamel. The cause is unknown, but suggested causes include periodontal (gum) disease, viruses, mechanical trauma, and increased vitamin D and A intake. Purebred cats may be predisposed.

Many times your vet can recognize the FORL in the exam room by noticing an inflamed area of the gum line which corresponds to a defect in the enamel. Gentle probing on the defect often causes the lower jaw to chatter. Sometimes cats show symptoms at home by having difficulty chewing their food, pawing at their mouth, drooling, or refusing to drink cold water. Many times, there are no obvious symptoms noted. Cats are masters at hiding their illnesses!

Treatment for FORLs involves a thorough exam of the mouth under anesthesia. Each tooth is probed for defects in the enamel after scaling and polishing. Generally, the affected tooth with the FORL has to be extracted, there is no specific treatment to help save the tooth. Many owners say after the affected painful teeth are extracted, that their cat is more interactive, playful and acts younger!

Cats with FORLs on one tooth often go on to develop them on other teeth, so close monitoring is key. There are not any specific preventative measures to help avoid your cat developing FORLs, but good dental hygiene (brushing your cat’s teeth, a dental diet) may help prevent gingivitis. Regular veterinary exams are essential to help identify the development of more FORLs.

Dr. Celeste Forgeron, DVM 2015

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