Why are dental X-rays important for my pet?

- By Dr Taryn Wakefield

Many people are aware that dental radiographs (x-rays) can help dentists identify problems with our teeth and assist the dentist in deciding on treatment. Dental radiographs are also extremely useful for our pets and the vets at Brudine Vet Hospital use this vital tool almost every day in identifying dental disease in our dog, cat and rabbit patients.

What is seen above the gumline is only part of the story when it comes to problems that can affect our pets’ teeth. Radiographs can show us what is happening to the tooth roots and bone surrounding the roots. A common problem is bone loss around the tooth that is caused by plaque and bacteria forming a pocket of infection around the tooth. Large pockets create loose teeth and are best treated with removal of the affected teeth. The photo below has a yellow line where the bone should be around the teeth in this dog, while the red arrow shows the deep level that the bone has been lost to.

A common dental condition of cats that can cause significant pain are “resorptive lesions” which are holes in teeth and can also cause complete loss of the root of those teeth. Dental radiographs are of huge assistance in deciding how to best remove affected teeth. Below is a radiograph of a cat with large holes in one of its premolar teeth (red arrow) and complete loss of the roots of that tooth (yellow arrow).

Dental radiographs are also very useful in deciding if a chip off a tooth has extended to the pulp cavity (where the blood and nerve supply of the tooth is) and if there is evidence of infection. Broken teeth can sometimes be treated by specialist veterinary dentists placing a cover or “cap” on the tooth, however if dental radiographs show there is infection present then removal of the tooth is often the best course of action. Below is a radiograph of a cat with a fractured tooth that shows extensive widening of the pulp cavity (blue arrow) and loss of the root of the tooth (green arrow) when compared to the same tooth on the opposite side (pink arrow). This indicates extensive infection is present and would be an extremely painful tooth for this cat! The tooth was subsequently removed and the cat recovered very well with improvement of her appetite afterwards.

Our pets cannot tell us exactly what tooth is causing them discomfort but thankfully dental radiographs can help us work this out. If you have any concerns about your pet’s teeth, please contact the clinic to organise an appointment with one of our vets.

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