Does your kitty have cavities? Well, it's possible, but feline dental cavities aren't quite the same thing as cavities in human teeth. As strange as it sounds, your cat's cavities are actually called neck lesions. Feline cavities are caused by a long-term disorder rather than by bacteria on their teeth.
The medical term for neck lesions, or cat cavities, is feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL) or simply resorptive lesions (RL). So what is actually happening inside your cat's mouth to cause this scary-sounding problem? The lesions emerge when your cat's body begins to break down solid teeth and absorb them through the gums. That has nothing to do with your cat's neck, right? Correct. The term "neck lesion" actually refers to the damage at the top, or "neck," of the affected tooth. Not much is known about what exactly produces these lesions, although dietary imbalances have been cited as a possible cause.
Resorptive lesions are a progressive disorder, which means they occur in several stages of severity. During the first stage of the disease, only the inside of your cat's teeth are affected, so there may be no visible symptoms at all. During this phase, the internal dentin and cementum portions of the teeth are damaged. The enamel on your kitty's teeth begins to erode in the second stage, which is when the lesions actually emerge. The disease is classified as stage three once the erosion reaches the sensitive pulp at the center of the tooth. The fourth and final stage describes FORL that have caused the crown of the tooth to significantly erode or break.
So what in the world happened to your cat to cause this problem? Nothing special, really. Some studies suggest that over 70 percent of cats over age 5 suffer from resorptive lesions, according to Washington State University College of Veterinary Medicine. In fact, many pet owners may simply see these dental symptoms as a natural result of aging, rather than a distinct medical problem to be treated. While resorptive lesions are rather painful, cats are pretty good at not showing their weaknesses, so you may not even notice a change in his behavior.
Treatment and Prevention
If you thought you really hated going to the dentist, imagine trying to get your kitty to sit still while he has dental work done. Luckily, you don't. Feline dental work is done while your kitty is under the influence of an anesthetic, so he probably won't feel or remember anything. FORLs do require the assistance of a veterinary dentist to repair though, so be prepared to pay for x-rays, radiographs and dental surgery to fix the problem. Stage one and stage two lesions can be treated by applying ionomer restoratives, which help strengthen the protective layers of enamel and dentin, according to the Veterinary Dental Center. Unfortunately, teeth afflicted by more progressed lesions must be completely extracted to keep your kitty from being in chronic pain.
- cat image by Dwight Davis from Fotolia.com