As previously discussed with puppies and kittens, it is also possible for adult dogs and cats to fracture their teeth, although much larger forces are required to do so. These can vary in severity depending upon the type of fracture and which structures of the tooth are exposed. If any of your pet’s teeth appear abnormal, please get them checked by a vet; if treated quickly then some teeth can be preserved.
Otherwise known as “Feline oral resorptive lesions” or FORLs and causes a loss of tooth structure, starting with the outer enamel surface, usually at or below the gumline. It is the most common cause of tooth loss in the cat (very occasionally dogs can also be affected). Studies have shown 28-67% of adult cats to be affected and purebreds are overrepresented. These lesions can be extremely painful, so it is important to check for them at home, they appear as a red or pink mark spreading from the gum-line onto the tooth surface.
Feline juvenile periodontitis
A very painful gingivitis seen in cats under a year of age (most common in pure breeds and Maine Coons seem to be overrepresented). This requires treatment and sometimes tooth extraction but can settle with age. It is important to check your pet’s gums as well as their teeth.
This is a severe and debilitating condition involving severe inflammation. You may notice that the pet has stopped grooming and has stopped wanting to eat hard/sharp foods. They may also be pawing at the mouth and drooling excessively. This is an excessively painful condition that always requires treatment, therefore if your pet is showing signs of mouth pain it is important to get vet check as soon as possible.
Lumps and bumps
Both cats can dogs can develop lumps in their mouths. Lots of these can be harmless but some can be more sinister, and it can be tricky to tell these apart by looking at them. Your Vet will be able to tell you if a lump can be left alone, needs removing or if a biopsy is required to get more information. Some benign lumps may also need removing to prevent the pet from biting it and causing infections.
The equivalent of cavities in human teeth and occurs when the enamel becomes demineralised by trapped organic matter followed by decay of the dentine. The hole created can cause further entrapment of food and worsening of the problem. These lesions can be painful due to exposure of the sensitive pulp and can lead to secondary infection and bone loss. If there is an unpleasant smell coming from your pet’s mouth, it could be a sign of caries and trapped food decay.
Tartar is the hardened form of plaque (a bacteria containing paste that coats the surface of the tooth if not brushed). Excessive tartar can cause gingivitis, periodontitis, infection and even loss of bone surrounding the tooth, eventually leading to tooth loss or abscess formation. Plaque can be removed easily at home with regular brushing, but once this hardens into tartar, this is much harder to remove and generally requires ultrasonic scaling under general anaesthesia to remove.
Periodontitis is irreversible damage to the gum’s attachment to the tooth causing damage to the bone of the jaw, the periodontal ligament (which supports the tooth in socket) and the tooth’s root surface. Damage to the tooth’s supporting structures associated with periodontitis also results in tooth mobility. This mobility will result in pain and can damage the blood supply to the tooth, eventually causing tooth loss in some cases.
If a tooth has an unusual colour (normally purple at the tip of the crown), then this is a sign that the tooth has sustained trauma and has suffered an internal bleed. This leads to an inflammatory process called pulpitis which often needs treatment with either extraction or root canal therapy. If your pet has an abnormally coloured tooth, please consult your vet about the best treatment options available.