Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What I learned today

Hmm. I've been stuck in a blogging funk lately, writing posts that sound a little too negative to actually publish... I don't want to turn this blog into a spot to vent, but I hate to let it sit idle too!

So, here's my goal for the next month: one post a day about something I've learned- about medicine, or surgery, or Tucson, or communication skills, or whatever. An internship isn't valuable if you don't take time to reflect on it. So, here goes day 1:

Feline malocclusions. A fancy way to say that the teeth aren't lined up right, malocclusions are much more common in dogs than cats because dogs' heads come in a much wider variety of shapes and sizes. The photo to the left is a canine (dog) canine (tooth) malocclusion, in which the lower tooth is contacting the upper hard palate, causing damage to the tissue. Despite being more common in dogs, cats do indeed get malocclusions, and I learned that thanks to my own kitty, Taiko.

Taiko turns 7 months old tomorrow (happy birthday kitten!), and so just finished getting his adult teeth in. I was trying to be a good cat mom and start brushing his teeth early, so that we get used to the routine. A couple of weeks ago, I was brushing and noticed that his breath smelled extremely foul. A 6 month old kitten should NOT have stinky breath (of course, neither should older cats- halitosis is a sign of dental disease as well as many other diseases). I examined his mouth a little closer and discovered that he had a malocclusion of his fourth premolars (teeth #108 and #208, for you Triadan folk). They were set too narrow, so the sharp points of his premolars were digging painful pits into the soft tissue and gingiva of his lower jaw. The foul smell was the infection setting into the gingival tissue. Taiko had both of his 4th premolars extracted and had x-rays taken of his lower first molars to assess the damage caused by the malocclusion. While he had some damage to the gingiva and some horizontal bone loss, he was able to keep his lower molars for now- hopefully we stopped the damage early enough that the integrity of the molars wasn't too compromised. In some specialty dental centers, the sharp points of the 4th premolars can be smoothed down and the teeth can be spared, depending on the severity of the malocclusion. In dogs, some malocclusions can be corrected with orthodontics (yes, seriously).

So, lessons learned:
  1. Always check the occlusion of teeth in puppies and kittens- even babies can have dental disease
  2. Cats get malocclusions too
  3. Foul odors in the mouth of any animal should be investigated ASAP

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