Dental Radiographs On Pets – What Is That All About?

By March 19, 2015Dr. Borgmann, Pets

By Dr. I Elizabeth Borgmann. You are probably wondering why your vet is recommending or requiring dental radiographs on your pet when they undergo a veterinary dental procedure. You’re probably thinking…wait a minute…’my previous vet never did that!’…or ‘you didn’t do that last time!’….or ‘isn’t that a bit excessive?’ Is this a money grab? Is this going too far for pets?

Well, for some people, doing anything for the health and well being of their pets beyond providing food, water, shelter and the most basic medical care is excessive. But does that apply to you? Is your pet a family member? Do you expect the same level of care for your pet as for your children? If yes, then dental radiographs become part of the package.

Why did your vet not do them last time? Because medicine and medical care changes with time. It’s a good sign that your vet is offering them now. It means they are staying in tune with the times! The more we learn, the more it has become evident that dental radiography offers better dental care.

And more and more veterinarians are acquiring dental x-ray equipment.

Stop and think. Why does your dentist take dental x-rays every time you go for a cleaning? Does that mean they are not doing a good job of looking at your teeth and probing or does it mean some pathology, or problems, lie hidden where the naked eye and the dental probe don’t reach?

So what will your veterinarian look for in those radiographs?
• Are there any missing teeth? Are they missing because they are fractured? Or did they never form (congenitally missing)? Are they impacted? Did they fail to erupt?
• If there are missing teeth present do any of these pose a potential source for problems? (For example: abscessed retained roots; cyst formation around impacted teeth or around teeth that failed to erupt).
• If it is obvious that a tooth needs to be extracted, is there a problem with the bone surrounding the tooth? Are the roots curved? Are the roots fusing with the bone?
• If a tooth is discoloured it is probably dead. Are there any abscesses forming at its base?
• If a tooth is fractured, is it abscessing?
• Did an infected tooth result in an opening from the upper jaw into the nasal cavity whereby bacteria, food, water and debris enters the nasal cavity?
• If periodontal disease is present, is there any attachment loss of the periodontal ligament and is there any bone loss?
• Is that swelling in the mouth due to a tumour or an abscess? (Just be aware, if it looks like a tumour, it is a good idea to x-ray the chest and look for spread of that tumour.)
• Cats with resorptive lesions REALLY need x-rays! Are those roots fusing with bone?
• Are there any root fractures?
• Are worn teeth showing any signs of abscessing at the base?
• Are there any hidden abscesses in apparently healthy teeth?

The above just gives you a hint at the types of problems unearthed by dental x-rays!

Your veterinarian needs this information to decide on how to proceed (or not to proceed) with a procedure. Be aware, with this information at hand, they may decide it is better to send you to a specialist than proceed themselves with a potentially disastrous procedure.
Just as with most things in life…the more we learn…the more complicated it gets! And as technology improves, the more care we can provide our companions to allow them to lead healthy and pain free lives!

Dr. I Elizabeth Borgmann

Dr. I Elizabeth Borgmann

Dr. Borgmann has been practicing in the Fraser Valley for over 11 years and can be reached at the Whatcom Road Veterinary Clinic

Originally published 01/25/10

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