Although you may not think about your cat’s teeth unless your feisty kitty latches onto your hand while playing, oral health care is incredibly important for your feline friend’s overall health and well-being. With up to 90% of all pets experiencing some level of dental disease by age 3, there’s a good chance your cat is silently suffering from a periodontal problem. 

In addition to stomatitis and periodontal disease, one of the other most common dental issues that affects cats is resorptive disease. Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs) go by many names, including:

  • Neck lesions
  • Cervical line erosions
  • Subgingival resorptive lesions
  • Feline caries

By learning how to identify a cat’s early resorptive disease signs, you can help prevent your whiskered pal from developing unnecessary pain and stress. Follow along as our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team shares our in-depth guide to FORLs.

What are resorptive lesions in cats?

Feline resorptive lesions occur when the hard tissue underneath the tooth enamel (i.e., dentin) erodes and becomes irreparably damaged. With time, the entire tooth resorbs, and the resorption process is incredibly painful, as the protective enamel’s destruction exposes the affected tooth’s sensitive dentin.

Resorptive lesions are divided into two types based on the affected tooth’s radiographic appearance. On dental X-rays, type 1 tooth resorption shows a healthy root with crown destruction. Type 2 resorption exhibits a disintegrating root that is not easily discernible from the bone. Identifying the resorption type that is affecting a cat’s teeth is important for determining the most appropriate treatment.

What do resorptive lesions look like in cats?

Resorptive lesions often appear along the gumline as small defects in an affected tooth’s  enamel. These lesions grow slowly over time. Resorptive defects typically appear pink because inflamed gingival tissue proliferates in these areas. As the lesion progresses inward, parts of the weakened crown can fracture off until the entire crown has disintegrated, leaving a bump in the gums where the affected tooth’s roots may still be embedded.

What are resorptive lesion signs in cats?

Cats are incredibly skilled at hiding pain, so you will likely have difficulty spotting your whiskered pal’s obvious resorptive disease signs. Keep a sharp eye out for the following signs that indicate your cat is experiencing oral pain:

  • Excessive drooling
  • Bleeding gums
  • Preference for soft or wet food
  • Swallowing food without chewing
  • Hiding or withdrawing from interactions
  • Irritability or aggression when the face is touched

How are resorptive lesions treated in cats?

Two treatment options are available for cats who have resorptive lesions. Type 1 lesions require tooth extraction, including the roots, to remove the pain source. Type 2 lesions can be treated by amputating the affected tooth’s crown to the gumline, then smoothing the bone and suturing the gingival tissue over the remaining roots. However, some tooth roots affected by type 2 lesions may require partial or complete extraction, so dental X-rays are always necessary to ensure appropriate treatment is administered.

Can I prevent my cat from developing resorptive lesions?

While feline resorptive disease’s exact cause is unknown, you still have many options for helping maintain your cat’s oral health. To preserve your cat’s pearly whites, incorporate the following measures into their oral health regimen:

  • Feed a high-quality diet — One theory behind resorptive lesions’ cause is excess vitamin D intake. Choose a diet that is low in vitamin D but still provides a sufficient amount to meet your cat’s needs.
  • Brush your cat’s teeth regularly — Type 1 lesions are thought to be spurred by inflammation, so keeping your cat’s mouth plaque- and tartar-free through regular, ideally daily, toothbrushing can minimize irritating and inflammatory oral bacteria.
  • Check your cat’s mouth for dental disease — Although you may have difficulty thoroughly examining your cat’s mouth at home, do your best to check for dental disease signs such as gingivitis, tartar accumulation, or tooth damage. If you notice problems, schedule an oral exam with our team.
  • Schedule regular dental cleanings — Professional dental cleanings are essential for our team to perform a comprehensive evaluation of your cat’s oral health and to eradicate plaque and tartar. Cats affected by resorptive disease may need frequent dental cleanings to slow the disease’s progression and manage your whiskered pal’s pain.
  • Stay on top of wellness care — Regular wellness care allows your Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital veterinarian to examine your cat’s mouth during routine visits and identify early dental disease signs. Preventive care also keeps your cat healthy through appropriate vaccination and recommendations for lifestyle changes such as diet and grooming.

If your cat appears to suffer from oral pain, they may have resorptive disease. Schedule an exam with our Star of Texas Veterinary Hospital team so we can determine the source of your cat’s dental discomfort.