Friday, July 20, 2012

Sophia's Story: What's in your cat's mouth?




Extra teeth!
Normal teeth (This is Max!)
Sophia is an 8-month-old Bengal kitten that her family adopted through the Oakland Pet Adoption Center. She was rescued from a hoarding situation here in Waterford. When we first saw her, she was lean and petite, but not undernourished, and appeared healthy. However, when Dr. Bailey examined her teeth, he discovered that she had more teeth than she was supposed to! Cats usually have 2 lower premolars and 1 lower molar. Sophia had extra molars on both sides of her lower jaw. She also had two “gemini teeth” – one on each side of her jaw. This type of tooth has two crowns (the part above the gum that you can see) that form from one set of roots. Several of her teeth had extra roots as well.


Left side of Sophie's jaw
Right side of Sophie's jaw
Normally, food particles build up on the surface of the teeth, but the majority of food debris are swallowed. Since Sophia’s mouth had many extra nooks and crannies to catch food, and since cats can’t brush their teeth, Sophia’s extra teeth put her at high risk for severe dental disease. Dr. Bailey recommended extraction of the extra and poorly-formed teeth in order to help keep her remaining teeth healthy.






Ideally, a veterinarian (your pet’s dentist!) should examine the mouth after all the adult teeth have erupted. At Exclusively Cats Veterinary Hospital, we recommend a fluoride application at about 6 months of age – this gives us an opportunity to examine your cat’s mouth under anesthesia and check to see that all the adult teeth have erupted normally, and that there are no malformations or places where the teeth do not pair up well.


Normal feline tooth anatomy


As beautiful as purebreds are, many specialized breeds are at higher risk for dental abnormalities. Persians and other snub-nosed breeds have the same number of teeth and the same-sized teeth as other breeds in a MUCH smaller mouth. This puts them at increased risk for dental disease.


Dental health is one of the many reasons that annual exams are important for all cats, even those that are young and healthy. This little lady was less than a year old! 

Misaligned bite ("wry mouth")
Surprisingly, about 40% of cats that are LESS THAN 3 years of age already have dental tartar! Feeding an oral health diet like Royal Canin Oral Sensitive 30 or Science Diet Oral Care can help decrease dental tartar, but unless you can brush your cat’s teeth after every meal, you are probably going to hear your veterinarian recommend a dental cleaning at least once in your cat’s life. It is best to schedule dental cleanings before disease is present – just like in humans, it has been found that bacteria from the mouth are continually swallowed and can affect other parts of the body, such as the heart and the kidneys. Unlike human dental disease that happens at the crown (the visible part) of the tooth, more often cat dental disease starts below the gumline where it often can't be seen until a lot of damage is already done. Teeth can also become infected below the gumline, causing pockets of pus that can cause fever, facial swelling, bone destruction or constant sneezing.