Recently we saw Susie for a check-up. Susie is a happy and energetic cat who enjoys smooching the face of her owners. Unfortunately, this has become much less enjoyable for her owners as her breath had started to smell very bad!
Dr Simon gave Susie a thorough examination which included a look in her mouth at her teeth and gums. What he found was a lot of gingivitis (inflammation of the gum) with heavy tartar and plaque. In the past, Susie had some dental issues with all of her upper left premolars and had a molar extracted due to periodontal disease. Dr Simon suspected this may be the cause of her smelly breath once more.
Although Dr Simon could get a good idea of what may be happening by his visual check of her mouth, this can only tell us what is happening above the gum line (even this depends on how long your pet is happy to let us have their mouth open for too). The only way to establish exactly what was going on was to anaesthetise her so that we could radiograph her mouth and do a more thorough examination, so Suzie was admitted into hospital.
Once anaesthetised Susie’s radiographs showed she had significant periodontal disease (bone loss) around the lower left premolars and molar. The line in the radiograph shown here identifies the height where the bone should be. The circles on the radiograph highlight areas where the teeth are actually being eaten away (tooth resorption) by the inflammation/infection associated with the periodontal disease. Although the degree of bone loss, in this case, is not too bad, because there is tooth resorption going on these teeth needed to be extracted.
Periodontal disease is a common dental disease in cats, dogs and humans. It is the progressive loss of the supporting structures around the teeth - the bone and soft tissue that holds the tooth in place. It is primarily caused by the bacteria in plaque (plaque is the furry layer that develops on your teeth). There are many other factors that are involved though – especially the individual animal’s genetics. In the early stages of the disease, it may be possible to halt its progression with regular scaling and polishing plus home care (ideally daily brushing). Once there is advanced loss of the supporting structure of the tooth (or secondary tooth resorption) then extraction is needed.
In this case, Susie was much more comfortable after her extractions and her owners were also more comfortable with the smell of her breath!