Why we take dental x-ray images of dog and cat teeth
Many times when you go to your own dentist for a check-up they will want to take some dental x-ray images of your teeth. Commonly this will be to assess for caries or previous fillings. Caries are the main cause of fillings in people, and dogs and cats rarely suffer from caries, so why do we take radiographs of dog and cat teeth?
The crown of each tooth usually only accounts for 40% of the tooth, whereas the root[s] account for the other 60%, so we can’t possibly know what is happening to the roots by just looking. We can use a fine probe to see if there are any pockets or holes around the tooth margin but to actually assess the roots, we need to take an x-ray image. We use a standard human dental x-ray generator for this with small digital capture plates, and a whole dog mouth of 42 teeth may require 6 to 10 images to get all the information. Cats with only 30 smaller teeth usually only require 6 plates.
The value of full mouth x-ray images was assessed over 20 years ago. Over 25% of dogs with clinically normal teeth [no lesions to see with the eye] had clinically important findings on their x-rays, while this was over 40% for cats. When looking at teeth with clinical lesions, the x-ray images added essential information in 22% of dogs, and 32% of cats. In addition, 8% of cats with no lesions had demonstrable resorptive lesions. These are common in cats and greatly affect how teeth are extracted.
Dental X-ray images of a cat with a tooth being resorbed
The images above are from a cat with a tooth being resorbed. We can see that the crown has a problem with gum overlying it, but only by radiographing it can we tell that the back root [A] has been resorbed into the jaw bone, whilst the front root [B] is still present. Clinically this means that, although the tooth needs to be removed, the back root is fused into the bone and cannot be, and does not need to be, removed. The front root can be surgically extracted and a flap of gum stitched across the surface. This saves the cat from a lengthy, painful and unproductive procedure trying to remove a reabsorbed root.
Images of a small dog which has a small pocket at the back of its crown
These second images are from a small dog that has a small pocket at the back of its crown [arrow]. The x-ray image shows that the back root has a large amount of bone loss surrounding it and the front root has a small apical pocket [highlighted]. The tooth must be removed and whilst the back root will be easy to remove, the front root has a solid support. Removal will require a surgical extraction with removal of bone to loosen the front root.
We have been routinely taking full mouth radiographs over the last two years and the benefits to our dog and cat patients are a significantly improved quality of dental care, accurate diagnosis of disease, and appropriate treatment leading to less pain and disease, and so a quicker recovery.
February 2020 is Pet Dental Health Month in which we are offering a 10% discount on dental work for dogs, cats and rabbits. To take up the offer please contact our reception team
Finally, if you would like more information about our services, please get in touch.
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