Pet Dental Health Month: Resorptive Lesions
February 10, 2016
February is Pet Dental Health Month! Let’s talk about a common problem we see in cats: Feline Oral Resportive Lesions, or FORLs.
“Resorption” is a normal process that happens during teething. Normal resorption breaks down the roots of the baby teeth when it is time for them to be replaced by adult teeth, and is is a very organized process which starts at the tip of the root and moves towards the gum line. The root is progressively resorbed until the baby tooth becomes loose enough to fall out.
FORLs occur when this process mistakenly happens to adult teeth. Unlike baby teeth, the process is very disorganized and may begin anywhere on the roots of the teeth: the tip, just below the gumline, or anywhere in between. A FORL can progress until it emerges above the gumline to affect the crown (the visible portion of the tooth). This results in exposure of the pulp (nerve and blood supply inside the tooth), causing pain and inflammation. Some FORLs remain under the gumline; these still cause pain and inflammation but can only be detected with radiographs.
We don’t know why FORLs happens in cats. They do not form like cavities in humans. There is no way to prevent FORLs or predict which cats or which teeth will be affected, although cats who form one FORL may be likely to develop more in the future. There is no way to repair affected teeth or stop the process once it starts; the only treatment is to pull the tooth. Without extraction, the tooth will eventually lose enough of its structure to break off, and in the meantime the affected teeth are painful. Think of having a loose filling or unfilled cavity, or even a sensitive tooth.
Some cats with FORLs may drool, paw at their faces, or grind their teeth. However, cats with FORLs frequently do not show any obvious signs of pain at all and continue eating and acting normally. They adapt by chewing on one side of the mouth only or swallowing pieces of food whole. However, we frequently hear at follow up appointments that cats are acting happier or more playful after extractions even though they were not obviously acting painful before the FORLs were discovered and treated.
FORLs are just one reason why regular examinations and dental care are so important for our cats. Good dental health contributes to your cat’s overall health and well being, keeping them happy and healthy for many years.
Karen Christopherson, DVM CVA