with Dr. Brett Beckman DVM, FAVD, DAVDC, DAAPM,
President, American Veterinary Dental Society
Q. What are the symptoms of dental disease that I should look for in my cat?
A. As in dogs the symptoms are the same. Many pets show absolutely no signs. Some pets may have bad breath, reluctance to eat, drooling, bleeding from the mouth etc., however due to the high percentage that have no signs it is essential to have a thorough oral examination at least yearly by your veterinarian.
Q. If a cat is suffering silently, are there certain behavioral changes I should look for as indications of pain?
A. Any behavioral change may indicate pain both oral and non-oral. A thorough veterinary examination with a blood profile and a urinalysis is the place to start. Often times oral disease is subtle and only diagnosed with a thorough evaluation under anesthesia and dental x-rays.
Q. My cat is seven years old and I have never cleaned his teeth. Is it too late to prevent dental disease?
A. It is never too late to prevent periodontal disease. Unfortunately a cat that is seven likely will require some treatment as well as the initiation of prevention. As long as the patient has been screened with a blood evaluation, urinalysis and other applicable diagnostics based on recommendations by your veterinarian then a thorough cleaning, oral examination and dental x-rays should be performed.
Q. I just purchased my first cat and have heard about neck lesions that can be caused by oral disease that goes untreated. Can you explain what they are?
A. ‘Neck lesions’ are now termed tooth resorption. Tooth resorption is the destruction of tooth structure either of the crown or the root. Tooth resorption usually mimics periodontal disease on visual examination and may appear as reddened gums or a reddened discoloration of the tooth starting at the gum line. It is progressive, often painful and the treatment depends upon the type of resorption. Dental x-rays are the only way to determine how tooth resorption is treated.
Q. How are these lesions caused?
A. We don’t know. The topic is under considerable research at this time.
Q. What is stomatitis and how is it related to dental disease?
A. Stomatitis is a severe reaction of the cats immune system to plaque on the teeth. Extraction of the teeth in the back of the mouth (behind the canine teeth) results in cure of this terrible condiditon in 70% of the cases. Others may require further care in the form of additional extractions or other medical care.
Q. Do cats experience dental disease differently than dogs?
A. Many of the problems are the same. There are specific diseases that are more common in one species or another, however periodontal disease and tooth fracture are the two most common problems and occur in great frequency in both species.
Q. My cat just had to have all of her teeth extracted. Can he live and have an quality of life without any teeth?
A. Cats and dogs live much better with no teeth than with teeth that are associated with painful disease.
Q. My kitty is only six months old, when should I start taking care of his teeth?
A. This is the best time to start if not sooner. Acclimation of your cat to oral manipulation is done by placing them in a comfortable position and gently manipulating the mouth and teeth with a finger. Flavored toothpaste can make this positive as well. Gradually introducing the toothbrush when acclimation is complete makes brushing easier to implement. Some cats will not allow brushing no matter what, however this approach ensures the most success.
Q. At what age should a cat have its first dental examination and cleaning?
A. Cleaning as a prevention of disease may need to be started at 12-18 months of age. If done regularly at the veterinary office periodontal disease may be prevented.
Q. Are some breeds of cats more prone to dental disease than others?
A. The exotic breeds and purebred cats are more prone to dental disease.
Dr. Brett Beckman DVM, FAVD, DAVDC, DAAPM, President, American Veterinary Dental Society
Brett Beckman, DVM, was recently appointed the 2008-2009 President of the American Veterinary Dental Society. He is a graduate of Mississippi State College of Veterinary Medicine. He holds advanced degrees as a Fellow of the Academy of Veterinary Dentistry (one of 77 such vets in the world), as a Diplomat of the American Veterinary Dental College and as a Diplomat in the American Academy of Pain Management making him the only specialist in the world in both veterinary dentistry and pain management. Dr. Beckman was also a nominee for the Bustard Veterinarian of the Year Award and was named 2007 Alumni of the year for Mississippi Sate University College of Veterinary Medicine.
Dr. Beckman has published numerous peer-reviewed articles in his field and lectures extensively throughout the United States. Dr. Beckman owns and operates Florida Veterinary Dentistry and Oral Surgery in Punta Gorda, Florida. And in 2005, the Veterinary Dental Education Center opened its doors in Punta Gorda. It is a state of the art training facility, one of the few in the country, dedicated to advancing the educational needs of veterinarians and veterinary technicians around the world in the field of dentistry and oral surgery. Dr. Beckman is also the official veterinarian for Gulf Coast Pet Partners, a non-profit organization that provides pet visitations to nursing homes, hospitals and mental health facilities.