If you notice symptoms in your cat such as bad breath, mouth discomfort, aversion to certain foods or less hunger it could be related to periodontitis. Periodontal disease is a condition characterised by the loosening and breakdown of tooth structure at or below the gumline, resulting in painful, bleeding lesions and destruction of the entire tooth structure. Untreated periodontitis can cause the disease to worsen with age.
What are cavities?
A caries problem involves the breakdown of enamel and demineralisation of teeth. In cats, decay is not as common as in dogs because of their natural diet, but some kittens are more susceptible to decay because of their diet or lack of oral hygiene.
The breakdown and demineralisation of enamel is caused by bacteria present in the mouth that break down carbohydrates and sugars left in the mouth after each meal, releasing acids that dissolve calcium salts in the teeth. Infections caused by damage to the enamel can progress and damage deeper structures such as the pulp and dentine, which can eventually lead to tooth loss.
Causes of dental caries in cats
Sugars and carbohydrates are the main causes of tooth decay, which is not common in cats because they are animals that get their energy and nutrients from meat, which is high in protein and fat and low in carbohydrates. However, there are some cat foods, such as wet food, that contain a higher percentage of carbohydrates than they need. This puts them at risk of developing caries.
Other causes of tooth decay in cats include the following:
- Viral diseases such as leukaemia, immunodeficiency, rhinotracheitis and calicivirosis.
- Expulsion of hairballs from the stomach (due to acid pH).
- Diet low in calcium or diet with excess vitamin D.
- Periodontal disease or chronic gingivostomatitis in cats due to bacterial fermentation.
- Dental fractures.
Symptoms of caries in cats
Caries can be detected with the naked eye by opening the cat’s mouth to see the structures inside. However, there are some clinical signs that indicate that our cat has caries or is suffering from some other dental or oral problem, such as periodontal disease, calculus or chronic feline gingivostomatitis. The most common symptoms are as follows:
- Anorexia or difficulty chewing.
- Weight loss
- Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
- Halitosis (bad breath)
- Hypersalivation (salivation)
- Lethargy or apathy
- Receding gums Yellow teeth
- Bleeding of the teeth
If your cat is showing these symptoms, it may also be related to an eating disorder. See your vet for any symptoms to prevent serious health problems.
How to treat tooth decay in cats?
Depending on the severity of tooth decay in cats, treatment varies. If the tooth has one or more small cavities that do not extend deep into the tooth, a filling may be recommended to remineralise and rebuild the tooth, along with a dental cleaning to preserve the rest of the tooth. However, if the dental x-ray shows that the dental pulp has been damaged, the tooth should be extracted or root canal treatment should be performed.
How to prevent tooth decay in cats?
It is very important to maintain good oral health in cats by brushing their teeth with a cat-safe toothbrush and cat-safe toothpaste. You should never use human toothpaste to brush your cat’s teeth.
The best way to keep your cat’s teeth healthy is to give him hard food that he can chew to break down and then swallow. This is thought to happen because the friction created when the cat breaks down the hard food on the teeth acts like a brush or squeegee for the dirt on the teeth, preventing tartar and food from building up between the teeth.
It is also important not to feed cats too many treats and not to spoil them with carbohydrate-rich treats to reduce the sugar content, which can serve as a substrate for acid-forming bacteria in the mouth. However, it is a good idea to give them snacks or foods specifically designed for oral hygiene.
Wet food is not only good for your cat’s kidneys, but also provides more moisture in the diet, which is especially important as some cats drink very little water each day. Mixing wet food with low-quality dry food can make them susceptible to tooth decay, as it tends to contain more carbohydrates than dry food. Therefore, it is best to feed wet food once a day, preferably in the morning, and dry food the rest of the day.
Using homemade food is also beneficial to your cat’s health. However, your vet should closely monitor this diet to make sure it contains all the ingredients and minerals it needs to stay healthy.