How often do you look in your cat’s mouth? Cat dental care is often overlooked at home, because, honestly, who wants to go poking and prodding around those sharp canines (err, felines)? But dental disease in cats can cause pain and lead to tooth extraction, so it’s important to pounce on top of your cat’s oral health.
If your cat has dental disease, including tartar buildup, gingivitis and periodontal disease, your vet might determine that one or more teeth should be removed or extracted. This is a very common occurrence that can be covered by dental health insurance, and the most common cause for tooth extraction is a condition unique to cats called feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL), or tooth resorption, which occurs in over half of the cat population.
Tooth resorption symptoms
Lesions start as small areas of enamel erosion, usually right at the gum line. Over time, the lesions grow, exposing the sensitive inner dentin of the tooth. These lesions are quite painful, and cats who are affected may have increased salivation and difficulty chewing. Cats are very good at hiding pain, however, so the lesions often come as a surprise to pet parents who had no idea their cat had been hurting.
Two types of tooth extractions
When tooth resorption occurs, sometimes vets can do what is called a crown amputation, where they just remove the tooth at the gum line.
More often, however, they will need to extract the full tooth, including the root. Tooth extractions themselves are not without pain, but remember, your feline friend is under general anesthesia and likely even has additional nerve blocks in the jaw to prevent discomfort.
Recovery and caring for your cat after a tooth extraction
Your cat’s mouth will be tender after a tooth extraction, and often cats have several teeth removed at one time. Rest assured, however, that your vet will send you home with sufficient medication to keep your kitty comfortable, and most of the time, your cat will be feeling much better within a few days of his procedure.
Your vet will give you detailed instructions on feeding and nursing care during the post-operative period. While your cat may not feel up to eating right away, it’s important that he get back to eating relatively soon after his extractions. Soft or canned food is easier on the gums, but if your cat only eats dry kibble, then stick with that. If he’s not eating within 24 hours of returning home, consult with your vet.
Future dental care
Your vet will also talk to you about the best way to keep your cat’s teeth and gums healthy in the future. For older cats, there is often a slow “introductory” period if home dental care hasn’t been part of the routine. Your vet will have all kinds of tips for you on how to best maintain your cat’s oral health (while keeping all ten fingers).
Pet parents are often so nervous about dental procedures. After all, they require anesthesia, and that can be a scary thought. But the relief your cat will feel after having painful teeth removed will be evident and make it all worth your worry. I’ve had many owners who reported that even though they didn’t think anything was wrong prior to the procedure, afterwards their cat was acting like a kitten again!
Our cats depend on us to keep them healthy, and dental health is just as important as any other aspect of their health. If you feel like there may be something a little “off” in your cat’s mouth, don’t wait to let your vet know. If you ever have a toothache, you’d want it addressed as soon as possible, and your cat does, too!
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