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If you have a cat that needs dental care, you can be assured that he will be treated very similarly to our canine patients. Cats can get periodontal disease which can lead to systemic problems as well. Cats, however, are very special creatures and have their own set of special dental problems.
Cats often present with a severe form of gingivitis. We have had several cats over just the last couple years whose gum tissue has become so inflamed or infected, that they cannot eat. Their gums become fire-engine red and they are very painful.
These cats seem to have some kind of hyper-immune reaction to any tartar on the teeth. As you know, tartar can build up after even 12 hours (that's why we brush our teeth twice a day). It would be nearly impossible to brush a cat's teeth that often. Unfortunately, the best treatment for these cats is to pull all or most of their teeth. This has about an 80% cure rate. The good thing is though, that they won't be in pain anymore and most of them start eating again and are happy!
Another problem that cats can get is lesions on their teeth, similar to our cavities, but they are called Feline Oral Resorptive Lesions or FORLs. We don't know what causes them, but they might have some genetic component. What happens is that the external, hard enamel of the tooth begins to dissolve and deteriorate, or become resorbed. This leaves the inner, sensitive structures of the tooth, such as the nerve and blood vessels, exposed. These are very painful lesions and many cats will 'chatter' their jaws if these lesions are even lightly touched. The only treatment that is known to be effective is to pull the affected tooth (teeth). Cats that have one lesion seem to be at greater risk for having multiple teeth affected. This is why dental x-rays are so important!
You might wonder though: 'my pet keeps eating and acts fine. I don't think he/she is painful'. However, our pets (especially cats) do not tell us when they are sick or hurt. They hide their pain/injury so that they will not be seen as weak. If our pet stops eating, then they have a painful mouth AND they are hungry. So this is why many dogs and cats especially will continue to eat with dental disease.