Educational Resources

Feline Dental Disease

Is Prevention Possible?

A young and healthy cat can develop an oral disease even when you are providing the best possible care. Tooth brushing, and enzyme-containing treats are good protection against plaque, tartar, and some forms of gingivitis. However, two common dental disorders we see in cats have no proven cause, meaning efforts at prevention are not helpful and extractions become necessary.

A Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesion (FORL) is similar to a human cavity - erosion of the tooth at the gumline eventually exposes the pulp cavity and causes pain. FORLs can occur at any age but are seen more frequently in cats over 5 years. Outward symptoms of pain are often absent. Approximately 70% of all cats will develop at least one FORL in a lifetime. Treatment of a FORL is extraction. No other treatment will reverse the damage done to periodontal structures nor address the pain. This means a filling won't work. The proposed theory for the cause of FORLs is vitamin D excess.

Gingivostomatitis (GS) is less common than FORLs and often affects younger cats. It is characterized by widespread, painful inflammation of tissues throughout the oral cavity. Still, the disease can go unrecognized at home, other than the observation of bad breath. The most effective treatment involves extractions, usually of several teeth at a time. GS tends to occur in households with more cats, suggesting viruses or bacteria are involved. However, because multi-cat homes also share common diets and may have more inter-cat stress, these factors may also play a role.   

A word about the role of food: There has been no link to type of diet consumed (i.e. canned vs. dry food) to the above disorders. This is consistent with the current thinking that dry food does not prevent feline dental disease. In fact, researchers have theorized that certain dry foods may be too hard for feline teeth, resulting in microfractures that may lead to FORLs.


  • You can't generally see "cavities" which can be very painful. 
  • Tartar and gum disease don't always go hand in hand. 
  • Some mouths may look normal to you but a subtle tissue change may be noted by a veterinarian which could be probed to determine if a painful cavity is present. Even with great dental care/hygiene some cats, like people, are still prone to dental disease. 70% of cats over 3 years old have dental disease 
  • Dry cat food does not clean teeth. 
  • At Cats Exclusive, assessing dental health is part of every wellness exam. 
  • We will only advise what is in the best overall interest of your cat-considering any risk factor that might affect anesthesia.

This article is from Cats Exclusive's Winter 2012 Mewsletter

See also:

Back To Educational Resources