Veterinary medicine has made significant advancements in dental health care, and the same technology is now available for pets as for people. Although not every veterinary clinic offers dental X-rays, we are fortunate to have the skills and equipment to be able to take full-mouth X-rays on every patient, and provide comprehensive, higher quality care. While the benefits of digital dental X-rays are numerous, here are the top three reasons why they are necessary for your pet’s dental health.

#1: Dental X-rays allow us to see beneath the gumline and diagnose problems

The portion of the tooth we can see is called the crown, but up to 75% of your pet’s tooth structure is hidden under the gumline, so we cannot see the crown interior, the roots, the jawbone, or the periodontal ligament that holds the tooth in place. Since so much of the tooth is not visible, we cannot know what issues lurk beneath the surface. 

Without dental X-rays, most oral diseases go undiagnosed, causing many pets to suffer in silence with a painful mouth. Taking digital dental X-rays on every patient means we can investigate the hidden tooth structure and repair any problems. Common issues we find with the benefit of X-rays include:

  • Periodontal disease
  • Tooth resorption
  • Impacted teeth
  • Retained root fragments
  • Dead teeth
  • Broken tooth fragments
  • Abscessed teeth
  • Pulp necrosis
  • Oral tumors with bone involvement

While some of these dental problems can be seen during an oral exam, most cannot, leaving your pet to suffer needlessly, because we have the tools to diagnose and treat issues. 

#2: Dental X-rays allow us to gauge periodontal disease severity

Periodontal disease, which affects up to 85% of cats and dogs by age 3, is a serious gum infection that damages the surrounding soft tissues and destroys the bone that supports the teeth. As periodontal disease takes root, the infection can cause tooth and bone loss, and oral bacteria can spread throughout the body, infecting the heart, liver, and kidneys. By taking full-mouth X-rays, we can judge infection severity and see how many teeth are affected. If the periodontal ligament is salvageable and the bone loss is not too advanced, we can take steps to preserve the remaining dental health and save the affected teeth. 

Dental X-rays are particularly necessary for small-breed dogs, in whom severe periodontal disease can create such bone loss that the jawbone is drastically weakened, potentially leading to a pathological jaw fracture. With X-rays, we can determine how weak the bone is, and if the jaw is at risk for a fracture. If a small dog’s tooth is extracted without X-rays, the jaw may break because of pre-existing damage and weakness. 

#3: Dental X-rays allow us to create the best treatment plan

Without understanding the full extent of your pet’s dental issues, we cannot provide the best course of treatment for relief. Dental X-rays provide the information that we need to design treatment plans for oral issues such as:

  • Endodontic disease — Endodontic disease involves infection or inflammation of the tooth pulp, which is impossible to see without X-rays. The crown of the tooth may appear healthy, but be covering the infection inside. Without X-rays, we may never find endodontic disease signs, and your pet will be suffering silently.

  • Extractions — When teeth need to be extracted, determining whether any root abnormalities may complicate the procedure can be difficult. Curved roots, extra roots, or roots that are fused to the jawbone can create problems during extraction and lead to broken roots. Without the aid of before-and-after X-rays, we would be unable to determine which root problems are present, and if we successfully removed all the roots.

  • Tumors — If an oral tumor is present, full-mouth dental X-rays can determine the extent of the mass and its damage, which helps us stage the disease, develop a treatment plan, and formulate a prognosis. 

Finding and treating an oral health problem can be challenging without adequate information, but full-mouth dental X-rays provide many details about your pet’s dental health that we otherwise could not see. At every dental procedure, each pet should have full-mouth X-rays taken so her veterinary team can find potential problems and chart the best treatment and prevention plan.

Interested in seeing what lurks beneath your pet’s gumline? So are we—schedule an appointment for full-mouth dental X-rays to get to the root of your pet’s tooth troubles.