Cats do not like to advertise when they are in pain, so you should monitor the signs of Toothache to prevent your cat from experiencing prolonged periods of discomfort and tension. Problems that cause toothache in cats include tooth decay, dental resorption – which occurs due to decay below the gum line – gingivitis and broken teeth. Although your vet examines these dental problems in your cat’s annual wellness test, you can search for several things that indicate the need to visit the vet.
Signs of toothache for cats
Unlike humans, cats cannot tell you when they are in pain, and they will continue to eat and behave normally. Some cats suffering from dental disease will eat by chewing on one side of the mouth to avoid hurting the affected side or swallowing dry food completely to avoid chewing completely.
Minor changes in behavior, such as hiding under the bed, may indicate that your cat is suffering from a dental condition. Other symptoms may include:
- Bad breath
- Red and inflamed gums
- Pawing at the mouth
- Grooming less often or not at all
- Sensitivity to being touched
- Exposed roots of teeth
- Loose teeth
Red gums are among the first signs of Toothache in cats. Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine website says that about 85 percent of cats over the age of 6 have tooth decay and that dental resorption occurs in about 50 percent of cats. The first stage of tooth decay is inflamed gums, which often appear as a red streak along the gums where the teeth meet. Red and swollen gums are also a symptom of feline gingival syndrome, which affects about 1 percent of cats. Healthy gums in pink cats.
Dental Problems in Cats:
Tooth abscesses: When a cat’s tooth becomes infected by dental disease, abscesses can form in the gums. These are pus-filled pockets where white blood cells buildup to fight the infection. Abscesses are very painful to the touch and can make it difficult for your cat to eat or groom.
Periodontal disease: The most common dental problem in cats is periodontal disease, which includes gingivitis and periodontitis. These conditions are caused by a buildup of plaque and tartar between the teeth and the gums. This leads to infection and inflammation of the gums, and can sometimes cause teeth to become loose and fall out. Periodontal disease can lead to or exacerbate diseases of the heart, liver, and kidneys.
Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs): This is the second most common dental disease in cats, affecting over one-third of all adult domestic cats and dating as far back as the 13th century. These lesions look like small areas of redness or an irregularly shaped gum line, but underneath, the teeth are being eaten away. Sometimes part of the tooth will break off, leaving a painfully exposed root.
Feline Chronic Gingivostomatitis (FCGS): This painful condition happens as a result of periodontal disease, when the gums become extremely inflamed, even to the point of completely covering the teeth. Ulcers can also form on the lips and inside the mouth. Currently, the most effective treatment for this condition is extracting all of the teeth from the cat’s mouth.
Malocclusion: In some cats, malformed teeth or bones can lead to malocclusion, the inability to close the mouth, and chew properly. This is normally found in kittens whose adult teeth fail to grow incorrectly, or breeds with flatter face, like Persians. This condition sometimes causes the teeth to dig into the gums or mouth, causing painful ulcers.
Broken teeth: As cats grow older, their teeth become weaker. Senior cats are very susceptible to broken teeth, especially the sharp canine teeth. Your cat may bite down on something hard and split a tooth, or cause part of it to break off. A broken tooth can expose the pulp inside the tooth, which contains blood vessels and nerves. This can be very painful for the cat, and lead to infection.
Treating cats’ teeth
Treating dental conditions in your cat can lead to high veterinary bills. First, your cat will require a thorough oral exam. Some conditions may require an X-ray to make an accurate diagnosis. Antibiotics or steroids may be prescribed to treat an infection, and painkillers to treat the pain. However, the most common treatment for dental conditions like periodontal disease or broken teeth is tooth extraction.
Dental extractions are either surgical or nonsurgical, depending on the condition of the tooth. A surgical extraction is required if the tooth has a broken root, or if the tooth is healthy, but must be removed due to malocclusion. Nonsurgical extractions are usually performed when the teeth are infected by periodontal disease.
Cats must be put under general anesthesia for tooth extraction and may need to be hospitalized afterward. Costs of tooth extraction may include anesthesia, medication, X-rays, surgical supplies, and hospitalization.
Your cat is most likely to show toothache symptoms when eating. Cats with mouth pain often chew on one side and eat less than usual or sometimes not at all. Your cat might try to eat but then drop the food, hiss, and run away. He may prefer soft food over dry. Pawing at the mouth and shaking of the head are more signs of pain your cat might show when eating or at other times. Another symptom to check for is bad breath. Your cat’s breath might smell of food he ate recently, but it shouldn’t smell offensive.
Stopping the Rot
About 90 percent of cats have dental problems at some point in their lives, but you can prevent your cat from suffering by simply brushing its teeth daily and taking your cat for regular checks. Feeding your cat designed to brush its teeth also reduces the bacteria and plaque that cause cavities. Your veterinarian can recommend a dental-friendly diet for your cat.