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Why are Dental XRays So Important?

Here at SimplyCats we routinely advise taking full mouth radiographs before any dental surgery on our feline patients. Dental x-rays allow us to accurately diagnose any area of dental disease, improving the level of care we can provide, and signposting us to the most appropriate treatment.

This is super important in CATS as most feline dental pain is coming from the roots (invisible on a normal examination and without Digital radiography), plus cats are very good at hiding pain!

A visual examination of the oral cavity, even by the most experienced veterinary professional can only tell us what is happening above the gum line. Even in the absence of any problems, these x-rays provide a baseline to refer back to throughout your cat’s life.

However, a careful once-a-month oral examination of your cat's teeth is very important at picking up early signs of disease (if your cat will tolerate this).

You should monitor for:

  • Any signs of plaque or tartar build-up, especially over the back molar teeth.

  • Areas of inflamed gum tissue

  • Any lumps or wounds inside the mouth

  • Bad breath

Even better, take a side view photo or video of both their upper and lower arcade of teeth. Don’t forget their molars too. It is always best to have an extra pair of hands for this and if your cat becomes upset stop. If you notice any problem areas it is always best to make an appointment. We would hate to have any nibbled fingers or a disgruntled patient!

Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions (FORLs)

Tooth resorption affects more than a third of all adult cats and is the second most common feline oral issue. Odontoclast cells destroy the surface of the tooth. Beginning below the gum line the root of the affected tooth is gradually dissolved and replaced by the surrounding bone of the jaw. The disease then begins to attack the inside of the crown, painfully exposing the pulp cavity. Resorption leaves the tooth weak and prone to fracture.

X-rays are critical in the diagnosis of feline dental disease processes. FTR lesions typically begin at or below the gum line, and symptoms do not appear for some time. As we know, cats hide pain including severe pain caused by root and crown resorption. So, this condition will often go undetected for long periods if at all.

Sarah’s own cat Marmalade received treatment for FORL’s and you can read his story here.

There are two recognised types of lesion, each requiring a different treatment approach. Type 2 requires amputation of the crown, whereas type 1 can cause further pain and infection if the root is not completely extracted. This is a difficult and skilled procedure and we do a lot at SimplyCats being a Cat only clinic.

There are no clinical signs that accurately differentiate between type 1 and type 2 lesions, so radiographs are essential. Siamese, Abyssinians and Persians are particularly prone to this condition.

How will I know If my cat has a dental problem?

Feline dental disease can occur in several forms and alarmingly 70% of cats over the age of 3 will already have evidence of dental disease. But all types will usually result in your cat needing dental treatment.

Cats can have serious dental diseases with no obvious signs!!

Our Dental Disease in Cats Blog covers the most common nuanced signs, conditions and treatment plus some possible home care options.

Bobbi’s Secret Story

Beautiful Bobbi, our receptionist Deb’s cat, can show you first-hand how important routine dental x-rays are, especially when dealing with feline patients. Bobbi’s first dental issue was revealed during an annual vaccination review. Deb had no idea there was a problem, as Bobbi had shown no outward signs of being unwell whatsoever.

More recently Deb picked up on a very subtle sign that Bobbi may be having an issue again. Bobbi showed a slight change in her behaviour, sleeping in a new place and seeming a little quiet. Deb took her straight into the clinic for an examination, which revealed a problem with one of her teeth. X-rays were taken before her dental procedure and these revealed a second tooth had also been affected.

Bobbi had been eating, drinking and toileting as normal. This echoes our knowledge, as prey animals, cats are masters at hiding pain and discomfort. It was only Deb’s experience in the clinic and owner’s intuition that unveiled Bobbi’s hidden pain. Thankfully Bobbi was soon on the road to recovery and back under the ever-watchful eye of Deb.

If you suspect your cat may have a dental problem, hidden or otherwise please contact the clinic to make an appointment. We can also offer advice on a host of preventative measures too!


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