Cats can be affected by inflammation of the entire mouth, called stomatitis or feline gingivostomatitis (FGS). Stomatitis is derived from the Greek word "stoma," meaning mouth, and suffix "itis," meaning inflammation. It is believed to occur in cats due to an immune-related cause. Some of the affected cats have difficulty eating, weight loss, decreased grooming, bad breath and excess salivation.
On physical exam, there is often a fever (temperature above 102.5 degrees F). Feline stomatitis can be very painful and affected cats can be difficult to examine. The oral cavity often has redness in the throat and swollen, red gums where the teeth and gums meet. The cheek teeth (premolars and molars) are most commonly affected. The teeth may also be affected by resorption. Resorptive disease is similar to cavities in humans. The affected teeth erode away which leads to exposure of the sensitive areas within the teeth called dentin. The exposed dentin causes pain and jaw spasms and is an easy area for bacteria to invade.
The cause of feline stomatitis is unknown, but it is thought to be due to an immune response to plaque. The cat actually becomes allergic to its own teeth. In the past, cats were treated with routine dental cleanings, steroids, antibiotics, and daily brushing (good luck!). In most cases, the stomatitis would come back as these therapies only temporarily helped. The current treatment of choice is to remove all affected teeth. After a tooth-by-tooth examination, we can assess which teeth are affected and should be removed. Fortunately, domesticated cats do not need teeth for survival and their mouths heal in a short amount of time.
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