Gum Disease in Cats (cont.)

Periodontitis

Periodontitis is an infection of the teeth and gums with destruction or damage to the support structures of the tooth. It is the progression of untreated simple gingivitis. It is considered irreversible but, at least in some cases, treatable. Rarely, loose teeth will develop strong roots again with treatment. Periodontitis can lead to an abscess of the root of the tooth or teeth.

One of the first signs of periodontitis is an offensive mouth odor. It may have been present for some time-perhaps even accepted as normal. Another sign is a change in the cat's eating habits. Since it hurts to chew, the cat may sit by her food dish but decline to eat. Weight loss and an ungroomed appearance are common. Teeth may be loose or even have fallen out.

If you look closely at a cat with periodontitis, you will see tartar deposits on the premolars, molars, and canines. Pressure against the gums may cause pus to exude from pockets alongside the teeth. This can be very painful to the cat, so do not try it at home.

Treatment: The mouth must be thoroughly cleaned and restored to a near normal condition. This involves removing dental tartar and calculus, draining pus pockets, extracting any damaged teeth, and polishing the teeth. This must be done by a veterinarian, because your cat will require general anesthesia for a thorough cleaning. While under anesthesia, the veterinarian will use a dental probe to see how deep the damage is to the gums. X-rays will reveal whether the teeth themselves are damaged. Antibiotic gels may be placed into deep pockets of infection.

Afterward, the cat should be placed on an antibiotic for at least 7 to 10 days. At this time, it is important to begin a good home dental program. Continuing regular home care is essential to treat periodontitis and to prevent further degeneration of the teeth.

This article is excerpted from “ Cat Owner’s Home Veterinary Handbook” with permission from Wiley Publishing, Inc.