Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions (FORLs) are painful erosion in cats’ teeth and are unfortunately very common.
The causes of the disease are not fully understood, however research links this disorder to diet and inflammation resulting from periodontal disease. Migration of odontoclastic cells to the crown or root of the tooth triggers erosion of the enamel and formation of lesions, which is particularly painful due to the exposure of the sensitive part of the tooth (dentine). Cats are good at hiding signs of pain therefore FORL can be difficult to notice, however you may notice inappetence, preference of soft food or increased salivation in your cat. On clinical examination, we can recognise areas of inflamed gums (gingivitis) around the affected tooth and sometimes an overgrowth of gum can be seen filling the lesion in the tooth. Lesions affecting only the root are not visible on clinical exam. Dental radiographs (x-rays) are recommended in these cases to ensure identification of all lesions. Treatment available involves extraction of the affected teeth which alleviates pain.
Recently, I was presented with a 6-year-old male neutered cat to administer annual vaccinations. Routine clinical examination revealed gingivitis around the right lower pre-molar, which was sensitive when probed. Based on the suspicion of FORL radiographs were taken revealing dark areas indicative of loss of enamel – shown in the picture. The affected teeth were extracted while the healthy ones were scaled and polished, to remove any plaque build-up. Our patient was administered medication to reduce inflammation with pain relief effect and recovered well after the extractions.
Often, even after treatment, subsequent lesions can occur. To prevent recurrence, we advise to make sure to brush your pet’s teeth regularly and feeding a dental diet which designed to help clean the teeth. This will significantly reduce the chances of lesion formation by keeping inflammation of the gums at bay. Frequent health checks at the vets will also help in picking up the signs of FORL early to reduce the discomfort experienced by your cat.