Gingivitis is the early stage of gum disease, The gums become red and slightly swollen. Eventually they bleed easily. If treatment is not received, gingivitis progresses to periodontal disease or ‘periodontitis’. This is more serious. Bone is irreversibly lost and so are teeth. A common condition in cats is ‘feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions’ or ‘FORL’, similar to cavities in us but not caused by the same bacteria. These painful lesions can occur on or just below the gum line and may affect only the root of a tooth. Teeth become more brittle and break. Abscesses occur. Serious mouth problems almost always cause pain.
Any of these signs warrant an immediate visit to us.
- Bad breath
- A reluctance to eat
- Food dropped from the mouth then eaten
- Pawing at the face or mouth
Feline Odontoclastic Resporptive Lesions Or Cat Cavities
These are the most common dental problem found in cats. At the London Veterinary Clinic two out of every three cats we see over six years old has ‘FORLs’. Sometimes these ‘cavities’ are obvious with bright red gum growing up in an inverted V shape to cover them. Just as often they are below the gum line, evident only on x-ray or examination under general anaesthesia. FORLs cause pain, sometimes so intense that even under general anaesthesia a cat may twitch when the tooth is probed! If your cat appears to want to eat but approaches its food with hesitance assume until proven otherwise that it has mouth pain and that pain may be caused by a FORL. Look in its mouth. You may notice a red line or redness and swelling at the point where the tooth meets the gum.
Prevention and treatment
Tartar build up caused by plaque can be avoided either by cleaning your cat's teeth yourself or having us scale and polish them. There are specially formulated toothpastes and specially designed toothbrushes and finger brushes for cats. Avoid frothy human toothpaste and consider offering bones to your cat. If you start them off as kittens, cats willingly eat bones. Yes, there are risks but the risks from eating bones are less than the pain and risks associated with annual anaesthetics to scale and polish teeth.
BE VERY CAUTIOUS GIVING YOUR DOG BONES. Do so under supervision. Ten minutes gnawing on a beef bone is usually enough to scrape the teeth.
Special diets designed to reduce plaque formation are available and may be useful. When our attention is needed, extraction of the diseased tooth or teeth immediately alleviates pain. Even if a cat needs all of its teeth extracted, as happens with feline stomatitis, it adapts wonderfully well and can still eat most foods including dry food.
Lip Fold Inflammation In Dogs
Breeds with droopy lower lips such as Cocker Spaniels, have a fold of skin on their lower lips. These folds become exaggerated with age and the loss of natural skin elasticity. The fold is prone to inflammation leading to bacterial or fungal multiplication and eventual foul-smelling infection. The raw areas of infection can be very sensitive. We gently cleanse with non-stinging skin antiseptic and treat with topical antibiotic – anti-inflammatory ointment or cream. Cleaning the lip folds with mild antiseptic, after each meal, reduces risk of infection. A surgical correction to eliminate the fold of skin is simple and effective.
Mouth Inflammation And Infection - Stomatitis
Foreign bodies stuck in the mouth and periodontal disease also causes of painful stomatitis. (Stick injuries to dogs are common and potentially very serious, especially those farther back in the mouth.) So too do a variety of serious metabolic diseases including kidney failure, advanced diabetes and autoimmune conditions. Affected pets dribble saliva, have bad breath and may have difficulty eating. Pain causes some to resent being examined.
Viral warts (papillomas) may occur inside a dog’s mouth as well as outside on the skin. They are small, pink, cauliflower-like, not dangerous and usually disappear on their own within six months. Malignant tumours such as melanomas, squamous cell carcinomas and fibrosarcomas are unfortunately not uncommon. They occur on the gums, tongue roof of the mouth and in the saliva glands in both cats and dogs. For any malignant mouth tumour the best prognosis is for a pet diagnosed early and treated quite aggressively with wide excision surgery. There have been dramatic advances in treating melanomas in dogs’ mouths.
Some dogs, especially those with loose slack lower lips such as Italian Spinones and St Bernards dribble saliva to Olympic standards. Drooling excessively is normal for many pets but for others it is a sign of mouth or esophagus disorders, motion sickness, heat stroke, liver disease, poisoning or
Retained Milk Teeth (Deciduous Teeth) In Dogs
The roots of the baby teeth naturally resorb allowing them to drop out, giving room for adult teeth to emerge. In many breeds, especially toys and the Yorkshire terrier in particular, root resorption can fail. Baby teeth don’t fall out but adult teeth still erupt. The solid roots of the baby teeth cause the adult teeth to erupt out of alignment. This may produce a variety of malocclusions. The retained baby teeth should be removed before malocclusions occur.
Periodontal disease is a general term used to describe any disease or inflammation around the teeth. It is the most common medical condition affecting the pets we see. Virtually every single pet will develop periodontal disease during its lifetime. With good management from you, the onset of periodontal disease can be dramatically delayed and the degree of intervention substantially diminished. Pets with periodontal disease suffer from an increased risk of heart, liver and kidney disease. Eliminating periodontal disease reduces these risks.
Causes and treatment
Poor dental hygiene is the prime cause of periodontal disease and bad breath (halitosis) the most common sign. Because the onset of periodontal disease is gradual pets don’t complain until pain occurs. By then much of the disease may be irreversible and the only possible treatment is removal of affected teeth.
A diagnosis is made from a thorough oral examination. Sometimes a full-mouth x-rays is taken especially in older individuals. The objectives of treatment are to eliminate pain and infection, reduce or eliminate periodontal pockets, produce a healthy attachment of gum to tooth and prolong the use and function of the teeth. Teeth are scaled and polished. Roots are planed. Damaged teeth are removed. The mouth is treated with oral antiseptic. Pre and post-op antibiotics are usually given.
Prevention - Dental Hygiene
Chewing dry food, even dry food specially formulated to help clean teeth will not on its own prevent gingivitis and periodontal disease. The best way to prevent is to brush or let your pet eat bones under your supervision. Start pups early. Train your pup to accept your using a toothbrush in its mouth. Start by brushing for a few seconds then immediately giving a food reward. Avoid our toothpastes. They contain detergent, they froth and are not made for swallowing. Use a pet toothpaste that doesn’t froth, tastes suitably interesting and is safe to swallow.
Supply your dog with suitable chew toys made from nylon, rubber, rawhide, compacted food or braided material.
Never give soft bones such as chicken bones to dogs but often these are safe for cats. If you give your dog cow bones, take great care. Allow chewing only under your supervision for no more than 15 minutes at a time. Hard bone and powerful jaws equals fractured teeth.
We will examine your pet's teeth during each annual health check-up. Prophylactic scaling and polishing prevents gingivitis from developing into much more serious periodontitis. Antibiotics are not necessary for routine scale and polishes.
Broken Teeth And Root Abscesses
Chewing on sticks, stones, bones and other hard materials can crack teeth, especially molars. Cracked enamel does not require treatment. If a crack involves the dental pulp, pain will cause a pet to eat carefully. It may appear listless. Chronic hard-toy chewing or ball playing wears down all teeth including the canines. This may lead to tooth pulp exposure and infection. Broken teeth with pulp infection are treated by root canal filling or extraction.
The canines and upper premolars are most susceptible to abscesses. An upper premolar abscess initially causes swelling under the eye. Eventually the abscess breaks through the skin. Pus and blood drain out. Pain usually diminishes after this happens. An affected tooth is usually removed although root canal treatment is sometimes an option.