Due to improvements in lifestyle, cats now live longer. Their teeth do not always do as well, and this can detract from their quality of life in their later years. One of the best ways of preserving your pet’s teeth is to feed a quality dry kibble diet which also helps their gums and lips. Cats are well equipped with teeth to crunch and chew; tinned foods just don’t offer this. For this reason, dry foods should usually be fed dry.
FORL is a very painful condition afflicting cats, a little like dental caries or a hole in a tooth in humans. The gum around the tooth becomes inflamed and looks as if it grows into the neck of the tooth so weakening it. It is possible to ‘fill’ these holes, but it is often necessary and far more efficient to remove the tooth. This is apparently a modern disease of cat teeth and is not seen as commonly in feral or wild cats in their natural environment. No one knows why this should occur, but one theory was that some cat food manufacturers put up to 10 times the recommended allowance of certain salts in food to make it more appealing. This can lead to the production of bladder stones resulting in lower urinary tract disease. To counter this, they add urinary acidifiers to prevent the salts from crystallising in the urine. It is possible that it is the acidifier damaging teeth and causing the neck lesions. This was only a theory and is probably not correct but if it were true then using a diet that didn’t carry excess salt and therefore had no need for urinary acidifiers would help prevent these lesions. Vomiting which will result in stomach acid attacking teeth may also have a role in the development of FORL. The causes of FORL are obviously complicated, and it is a condition which requires more research.
Gingivitis is an inflammation of the gum and can become very painful in cats. It can occur for a variety of reasons but most commonly due to:
Where the immune system is hypersensitive to bacteria, the gingivitis can be controlled by reducing plaque bacteria numbers on teeth either by using a dry diet that reduces plaque or by using antibiotics to reduce plaque bacteria number. Alternatively, tooth extraction can sometimes help by not enabling plaque bacteria to gain a foothold in the mouth. Another approach is to calm down the body’s hypersensitive response to the bacteria by using steroids. Some complementary therapies claim they can modulate the immune system by calming a hypersensitivity.
In immunosuppression, plaque bacteria can invade much further into the gums resulting in gingivitis. Antibiotics will help redress the balance, but there is often a bad underlying cause to immunosuppression such as feline leukaemia or feline AIDS.
Again, foods which reduce plaque bacteria on teeth will help to control the extent of the gingivitis.