cat tooth decay

Cat Teeth Problems – How to Spot Tooth Decay

Table of Contents


Do Cats get Tooth Decay?

Cats do get bad teeth but they are not usually the same as cavities in humans. The most common dental problem found in cats is a condition called Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORL)

Sometimes the FORLs are obvious (see picture above) but sometimes they are only evident from x-ray images. Decay is usually below the gum line.

FORLs are classified from 1 to 5 depending on the severity.

It is believed that up to two thirds of all cats over the age of five will suffer from FORLs at some stage.

What are the symptoms of tooth decay in cats?

FORLs cause a great deal of pain. The pain may be so intense that even under general anaesthetic the cat may twitch when the tooth is probed.

The first symptom you may notice may be the cat’s reluctance to eat. Any pressure on the tooth is extremely painful. The cat may be very hungry and will attempt to eat but drops the food when he gets it in his mouth.

A cat may reach a point where he no longer attempts to eat and he becomes thin and loses condition. He may also refuse to drink and become dehydrated.

  • The cat may be reluctant to eat.
  • The cat may drool excessively.
  • You may notice bleeding from your cat’s mouth.
  • Bad Breath is another indication.
  • The cat flinches or cries out in pain when you touch him in the mouth region.
  • The Cat may paw at the mouth.

On examination of your cat’s teeth you may notice a red line or redness and swelling at the point where the tooth meets the gum. The picture at the top of the page shows a case of bleeding at the gum line.

What is the Treatment for Toothache in cats?

Usually extraction of the diseased tooth or teeth instantly restores your cat to his former self. Once the tooth is removed he is free of pain and can continue a normal life. Even if a cat has all of his teeth extracted he soon adapts and can still eat most foods including dry food.


  1. Note the redness around the base of the cat’s left canine tooth which suggests FORL
  2. After the extraction
  3. The extracted tooth. Decay is predominantly below the gum line

Other Causes of Mouth Pain in Cats

  • Abscessed tooth.
  • Broken Teeth
  • Gingivitis (inflammation of the gums)
  • Periodontal Disease
  • Periodontitis (inflammation of the tissue surrounding the teeth)
  • Bone or foreign body stuck between the teeth
  • Kidney Disease
  • Feline Leukemia Virus
  • Feline Stomatitis
  • Mouth tumors

Check your cat’s teeth and gums regularly. The easiest way to do this is run a cotton bud or Q Tip around the gum line. If there is any sign of blood or pain get your vet to check it out.

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