Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Saskatchewan, Canada
From your description, it sounds like the canines have cavities, in addition to gingivitis. Unfortunately, cats get a different kind of cavity than dogs or humans. They get a special type called Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions, or FORLs for short. These start just below the gumline and eventually eat a hole all the way through the tooth. This likely accounts for the gingival irritation by the canines. Because of the nature of these cavities, the only way to treat them is with extraction or in some cases with a root canal. From the people I have talked to, root canals are much more expensive and don't really confer any benefit to the cat.
So your veterinarian did an FIV/FeLV blood test? It is always a possibility that your cat has one of these illnesses, but dental disease is extremely common in healthy cats as well. I have read stats that say 75% of cats over the age of 3 have an FORL. This has certainly held true for my kitties. Two of them have had 3 teeth removed, and the third (Levi) has only his incisors and two molars left.
Levi has done very well without his canines. He had the bottom two removed about two years ago, and the top two 6 months ago. He did not show any problems except for a little bit of mouth soreness for the first bit. He is completely on canned food, so he does not have issues with chewing.
Cleo, one of my other cats has also had an upper canine removed due to a fracture of the tip of the tooth. The only issue she had was that the lower canine would press into her upper lip and caused a bit of an ulceration. That part of the lip eventually grew a bit more tough and she adjusted to holding her lips slightly differently. So, in my experience, kitties don't even notice that their canines are gone.
I can't really comment about the fistula, but it sounds like the extractions are necessary for your kitty. Your kitty may be one of the unlucky ones that just was born with bad teeth. Despite brushing Levi's teeth everyday, he continues to get FORLs and has to have the teeth removed. Some cats are just more predisposed than others. Best of luck with your decision!