Tooth Resorption in the Dog and Cat

What is tooth resorption

Most studies agree that on the average 50% of cats have at least one tooth resorptive lesion. While tooth resorption is commonly thought of as a feline condition, canine tooth resorption is being diagnosed as well.

Is it painful?

This is a VERY PAINFUL condition. Majority of animals do not show symptoms and suffer in silence. Of those that happen to demonstrate symptoms, the patient may be off their normal appetite, drooling, pawing at the face, and “chattering” or grinding of teeth.

What causes tooth resorption?

Even with extensive ongoing research, the cause is unknown. Current studies support that the cause may actually be multifactorial. Until the cause understood, preventive recommendations can only be speculative. Research has shown that these areas are not true caries (cavities) caused by bacteria. Tooth resorption usually originates hidden below the gum line, but is not visualized until the crown of the tooth is involved. The resorptive process is very complex. In short, odontoclasts, normal cells located within the periodontal ligament, are for some reason activated and begin a pathological resorption of the root surface. Once these defects reach the inner layers of the tooth, cats experience extreme discomfort.

There are two distinct histological types of root surface resorption: Type I (inflammatory) and Type II (replacement by bone). Type I resorption seems to be initiated by periodontal inflammation; however, replacement resorption is the more common type. Over time, resorptive lesions progress to affect root and then crown dentin.

**What is the treatment?

Dental radiographs are essential to properly identify between Type 1 and Type II disease. Treatment is focused on removing the source of the resorptive process.

  • Type 1 tooth resorption: Requires complete removal of the tooth root
  • Type 2 tooth resorption: Treatment with crown amputation with intentional root retention can done if there is advanced root resorption, no evidence of periapical periodontitis or periodontal disease, or stomatitis. If there is radiographic evidence of root resorption, but no clinical resorption detected on oral examination, the tooth can be monitored annually.

Follow-up with full mouth radiographs should be done annually on any animal diagnosed with tooth resorption.