- A cat that is not exhibiting clinical signs of pain can still have significant dental disease.
- A high-speed dental drill and a dental radiograph machine are essential to provide even basic dental treatment in cats.
- Periodontal disease is one of the few dental problems that we can prevent; prevention depends on early disease recognition
and prophylactic treatment.
- Most feline teeth that are affected by advanced periodontal disease are candidates for extraction.
Dental disease is common in domestic felines. In fact, dental problems are the most common disease that we see in cats, and
many dental problems are painful.
The sensory nerves (branches of trigeminal nerve) that cause humans to experience dental pain are present in the cat as well.
The most common sign of pain in cats, however, is no sign at all. By diagnosing and rendering appropriate treatment, we can
eliminate pain and afford our feline patients a better quality of life.
Not a diagnosis
Dental disease is not a diagnosis. There is no specific treatment for "dental disease." Specific treatment can only be recommended
and performed when a specific diagnosis is discovered.
By making a diagnosis, we can offer specific and rational treatment or treatment options for the specific dental problem(s)
The vast majority of feline dental problems can be grouped into one of five disease categories: periodontal disease, feline
odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL), fractured teeth, feline gingivitis/stomatitis syndrome and oral neoplasia.
When performing your oral examination, a diagnosis of one of the above-listed problems will direct you to a specific treatment
Of course, there could very well exist multiple dental problems in the same mouth. Think of the cat's mouth as 30 individual
little patients, each with the potential of having some problem. Recommend treatment on a tooth-by-tooth basis based on the
results of your examination.
Kittens are born adentuous (without teeth). By 1 to 2 weeks of age, the deciduous or temporary teeth begin to erupt. The
6-week-old kitten should have a full complement of 26 deciduous teeth.
Between 4 and 5 months-of-age, the deciduous teeth will be shed, and the permanent teeth will erupt. By 6 months of age,
a total of 30 permanent teeth will have erupted that comprise the complete feline adult dentition.
Photo 1 Depicts early-stage periodontal disease: gingivitis. Note the plaque and calculus accumulation, especially on the
maxillary fourth premolar, where the gingivitis is most pronounced.This mouth could be brought back to a state of health with
a dental prophylaxis and institution of a home care program.
These 30 teeth include 12 incisors, four canines, 10 premolars and four molars. If the primary dentition fails to be shed
by the time the permanent tooth erupts, a condition called "retained deciduous teeth" occurs. The rule of thumb is to recommend
immediate extraction of the retained deciduous tooth.
The dental formulas of the cat are:
Cat: Deciduous teeth: 2X (3/3 i, 1/1 c, 3/2 pm) = 26.
Permanent teeth: 2X (3/3 I, 1/1 C, 3/2 PM, 1/1 M) = 30.
Feline teeth are "hollow" and the hollow chamber inside the tooth-the pulp cavity (root canal)-contains the blood vessels,
nerves and lymphatics that comprise the dental pulp. The pulp tissues communicate with the rest of the body through multiple
small foramina located at the root apex (apical delta.)
The pulp chamber is surrounded with a tissue called dentin. Dentin is a hard tissue that is produced by odontoblasts, and
forms the bulk of the tooth's structure. As the tooth ages, the odontoblasts continue to produce dentin, causing the dentin
to thicken and the pulp chamber to narrow.
On the crown of the tooth, which is the part of the tooth visible above the gum line, a protective layer of enamel covers
the dentin. The root dentin is covered by cementum, which is where the periodontal ligament fibers insert.
The periodontium consists of the structures "around the tooth" that function to attach the tooth in the mouth. The periodontium
consists of the gingiva, the alveolar bone, the cementum and the periodontal ligament.