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Resorptive Lesions in Cats

Feline resorptive lesions are commonly found when evaluating dental disease in cats. Studies have shown that up to 30% of the domestic cat population is affected.  Technically termed Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions, these defects are commonly referred to as cervical erosions, cervical line lesions, “neck lesions”, or more appropriately just, resorptive lesions. The cause of these lesions is poorly understood, but they are frequently associated with gingivitis or the more advanced periodontal disease, periodontitis. These lesions expose the nerve endings in the tooth and cause considerable pain.


Normally, teeth are maintained by a balance between body cells that are depositing tooth structure and cells that are removing tooth structure. Resorptive lesions develop whenever the cells removing tooth material become more active than those forming tooth material. The result is a gradual eating away of the tooth. This can happen internally inside the crown, deep below the gum line in the roots, or at the neck of the tooth. The older term neck lesion describes this common location.  Feline teeth are quite thin and, severe tooth damage can occur in a relatively short period of time. The fact that this erosion process is frequently occurring below the gum line and “out of sight”, makes early detection difficult.  Most often, it is not discovered until severe damage has already occurred.


Most affected teeth must be extracted.  Lesions that are superficial and not yet into the pulp can be restored (filled). Unfortunately, experience has taught us that the resorption process usually continues despite our attempts at restoration. Early erosions (those not yet through the enamel) can be treated with either a fluoride varnish or a layer of fluoride-releasing dental filling material.  Unfortunately, experience has taught us that the resorptive process continues despite the fillings.


In addition to these hospital treatments, control is difficult without regular home care. Frequent brushing with a germicidal dentifrice will help control the gum disease which is associated with one type of resorption. The other type develops independent of the level of gum disease and, as yet, there is no known way to prevent it.



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 Charlottesville, Virginia
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