Answer by Dr. Curtis Stiles of Angell Animal Medical Center's Dental Medicine Service:Gingivitis is caused by plaque bacteria. Plaque is that film that forms on your teeth. This film also forms on your cat's teeth. Gingivitis is the first stage of periodontal disease and is reversible with appropriate treatment. If periodontal disease has not progressed beyond just gingival inflammation (gingivitis) then a complete scaling and polishing and professional periodontal health assessment may the only treatment necessary. Home care afterward (scaling and polishing) to allow the gingiva to heal and prevent gingivitis and irreversible changes associated with periodontal disease (gingival recession, bone/tooth loss) should include brushing. This sounds worse than it actually is, but it is important to rule out any other disease beyond reversible gingivitis prior to starting a home care regime as your pet may be uncomfortable and starting brushing in an uncomfortable mouth will result in a pet who does not like to have their teeth brushed. Cats commonly have a disease associated with their teeth called resorptive lesions. This is a process that is not fully understood, but does occur in people and dogs. However, cats seem to be predisposed to forming these lesions. In simplest terms the teeth are being eaten away by the body. The reason for these lesions to form is not known, but when these lesions appear at the gum line they are painful. The resorptive process can become so involved as to invade the pulp of the tooth (where the nerve and blood supply are) these teeth are even more sensitive. The lesions can get so bad that the crown of the tooth (part of the tooth we see in the mouth) can break off, then the patient can even be more painful. This is why an evaluation by a veterinarian is recommended prior to starting any home care regime and often a full evaluation of the teeth, with dental radiographs under general anesthesia is warranted to ensure that there isn't more than just gingivitis present.
For owners with financial concerns, there are many programs that provide assistance. At Angell Animal Medical Center we offer Care Credit which allows qualified applicants to spread payments out interest-free for a defined period of time. The MSPCA also provides low-cost spay/neuter services for low-income pet owners at www.mspca.org/snap. Spaying or neutering your pet can save costs down the road since they will no longer face certain cancers.
If you are in need of a veterinarian you may call Angell Animal Medical Center at (617) 524-5653 to schedule an appointment, or visitwww.angell.org/generalmedicine for more information.