July 18, 2012

Juvenile-onset Gingivitis/Periodontitis

Severely inflamed gingival tissue in a young kitten with no visible calculus (tartar)

We occasionally see the development of bright red gums (gingivitis) in young cats around 6 to 9 months of age. Oftentimes, these cats have little or no calculus accumulation. The exact cause is unknown, however, some theories include: viruses, breed disposition (more common in certain purebred cats such as Persians, Siamese and Abyssinians), genetic and environmental influences, immune suppression, and of course, plaque and calculus build up.

Initially, the gingivitis is mild and localized, but it may progress in some kittens to very severe inflammation with bleeding of the tissues around the teeth. If left untreated, these areas frequently develop areas of tooth resorption (feline cavities) and bone loss around the teeth.

Treatment of juvenile gingivitis includes eliminating and preventing plaque and calculus formation by performing a thorough teeth cleaning and polishing. Many of these patients require a brief dental cleaning every 3-6 months to remove accumulated plaque. This is followed by aggressive home care that may include sprays, rinses, water additives and, if tolerated, brushing the teeth. Fortunately, some cats seem to outgrow the disease by two years of age. Unfortunately, those cats that do not respond will require further treatment.