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5 Reasons Why Your Pet Needs Dental X-Rays

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Dental x-rays are an essential diagnostic tool in assessing your pet’s overall oral health. Approximately two-thirds of the tooth resides under the gumline which makes it impossible to accurately assess the health of the tooth by visual examination alone.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Extracted maxillary canine tooth in a medium-sized patient. Tooth above the red line is the tooth root. Below the red line is the crown. Quarter for size reference.

What is a Dental X-Ray?

A dental x-ray is a black and white two-dimensional image that is taken while your pet is under anesthesia by positioning a sensor inside of the mouth, just like when you visit your human dentist. They’re much smaller and considerably more detailed than your average x-ray of a limb or belly. A dental x-ray shows fine details that are needed to evaluate the teeth and surrounding structures.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Dental x-ray of the left mandibular first molar in a dog.

Does My Pet Really Need Dental X-Rays?

There are many reasons to take a dental x-ray, but full mouth x-rays are always recommended annually during your pet’s anesthetized oral exam and cleaning. Here are five reasons why your pet needs annual dental x-rays:

1. Pathology

In many cases, oral diseases and injuries can be hidden below the gumline, undetectable upon oral exam alone.

2. Oral Infection

Teeth that look normal to the naked eye can be surprisingly infected below the gumline. In this case, the tooth was so badly infected that the jaw bone was fractured – essential information that a veterinarian needs prior to treatment.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Mandibular molar in a dog. Severe infection has led to jaw fracture (red arrow).

3. Missing Teeth and Tooth Roots

Missing teeth should always be x-rayed to be sure they aren’t hiding under the gumline. Teeth that have not erupted can lead to cysts and can be destructive to the jaw bones.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

The first premolar appears to be missing on visual exam (left photo, white arrow), but on dental x-ray (right photo) is under the gumline and forming a cyst (red arrow).

In addition, in the next photo, this dog had a missing tooth root. On visual examination, there was no indication at all an underlying problem was lurking. X-rays revealed that one of the tooth roots was completely non-existent. The missing root would have been missed completely if full mouth x-rays hadn’t been taken.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Maxillary premolar in a dog. The tooth looks normal upon visual exam, but dental x-rays reveal a missing tooth root (red arrows).

4. Oral Surgery

Dental x-rays are imperative both before and after surgical extraction. Your family veterinarian or board-certified veterinary dentist needs to confirm that the entire tooth structure was extracted. Retained tooth roots can be a source of pain and infection.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Retained maxillary premolar tooth roots in a dog (red arrows).

5. Tooth Resorption in Cats

Tooth resorption is a common condition in cats where the tooth structure erodes and can lead to painful lesions with the nerve tissue exposed. We need dental x-rays to assess the extent of the erosion and to decide on the appropriate type of treatment. A lot of times, tooth resorption is actually imperceptible until the x-ray is taken.

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota

Maxillary canine tooth with tooth resorption in a cat (red arrow).

Unlike people, our pets can’t tell us where it hurts. Dental x-rays are a very important tool to understand what’s going on in your pet’s mouth – just below the surface. Your pet’s dental health is critical to his overall health; if your pet hasn’t had an oral examination in a while, talk to your family vet about your pet’s teeth today!

Dentistry & Oral Surgery service, AERC, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota, veterinary dentistry, veterinary oral surgery, Animal Emergency & Referral Center of Minnesota


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