Are there really orthodontic procedures for cats?
Occasionally, teeth do not erupt in the right location (known as malocclusion). This may result in pain and an inability for the cat to close their mouth properly. If the malocclusion results in pain and poor function (not able to chew food properly), then a decision needs to be made on how to correct this. The options include selective extractions or moving teeth to create a comfortable, pain-free bite. Sometimes it is possible to decrease the height (crown amputation) of the teeth that are in traumatic contact with other teeth or oral soft tissues.
Crown amputation requires the advanced technical skills and specific materials that a board-certified veterinary dentist has available to them.
Wouldn’t it just be easier to take out the tooth?
Sometimes yes – especially when a smaller single rooted tooth is involved. However, when a larger tooth (such as a canine) is causing the oral pain or a strategically functionally important tooth is involved, it is often better to reduce the height of the tooth or to move the tooth.
What is crown amputation (crown reduction)?
Crown amputation with restoration is a procedure whereby the crown height is reduced exposing the inner pulp cavity which contains the neve, lymphatics, and blood vessels. A layered dressing (filling) is placed on the exposed internal tissues of the tooth and the tooth is sealed to prevent bacteria from gaining access. The goal is to remove the traumatic contact while maintaining the tooth’s vitality. This procedure is also referred to as vital pulp therapy with restoration.
Above: Lower-left canine positioned forward causing lip inflammation.
Below: Lower-left canine tooth crown reduction with restoration.
How are teeth moved?
Teeth can be moved by applying constant or intermittent sustained pressure in the direction in which a tooth needs to move. There are various appliances that can be used to move teeth including orthodontic buttons and elastics. Occasionally, an appliance known as an inclined orthodontic plane may be used to redirect teeth into a more appropriate position. As in people, the process takes weeks to months.
Above: Upper canine teeth malpositioned causing lower jaw pain.
Below: Orthodontic buttons and elastics used to move the upper canines into a functional pain-free condition.
Can show cats have orthodontics performed?
The Cat Fanciers Association (CFA) prohibits cats in the show ring that have had orthodontic care. Some malocclusions develop as a result of a hereditary malocclusion. Often cats who are successful in the show ring are sought after as breeding animals. If they have the genetic tendency to propagate malocclusions, it is not possible to detect and prevent perpetuation of the defect in their offspring if the malocclusion of the breeding parents has been professionally corrected.
Can my veterinarian provide the orthodontic care my cat needs?
Many veterinarians are comfortable delivering orthodontic care for cats. Your veterinarian may seek the advice of a board-certified veterinary dental specialist (avdc.org) for advice or referral.