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Does My Dog/Cat Really Need An X-ray?- Memphis Area Pet Health

Posted 09.09.15 by Emily Lindsey

All veterinarians have heard the saying, “It’s just a dog. Why do they need dental work?” The truth of the matter is that dental disease in our pets can not only cause serious pain and loss of appetite, but it can also lead to long term health problems such as heart and kidney disease.

dental1Surprisingly, 80% of dogs and cats over 5 years of age have some form of dental disease. With that being said, dental radiography (or dental x-ray) in veterinary medicine has become part of the standard of care for veterinary dentistry and is the most important aspect of improving the quality of dental care in vet practices.

So why is dental x-ray so important?

Animals are not always willing to let us look in their mouths, especially not long enough to perform a thorough exam. Usually, we have to place patients under general anesthesia to perform an exam. Even when our patients are under anesthesia, we can only visualize the top third of the tooth or the crown of the tooth. Dental x-ray allows us to look at the tooth root to identify pathology that would have gone undetected otherwise. In many cases, the crown may look normal, but the root or underlying jaw bone is diseased.

dirty dog teeth

If any diseased teeth do need to be extracted, dental radiographs also help us to ensure 100% of the tooth root has been extracted. This is very important because roots that are left behind can cause continued pain and infection. If there is already a tooth abscess/infection beginning, dental films can help identify this early before there is painful facial swelling or a draining tract of infection on the face. dental4

Dental x-ray helps us be better prepared for extractions or surgical procedures. It also lets us know when a procedure is beyond our comfort level and needs to be referred to dental specialists. Sometimes we can see that the tooth has underlying bone disease caused by an infection or an invasive mass that could lead to an increased risk of jaw fractures.

Feline odontoclastic resorptive lesions, or simply feline tooth resorption, is the most common dental disease in our kitty companions. The exact cause is still unknown, but one theory is that it is the body’s reaction to poor dental hygiene and periodontal disease. It causes painful pockets in the crown and the roots of the
teeth, loss of appetite, bad breath, and teeth chattering. Dental radiographs are necessary to assess the tooth roots and underlying bone density in cats affected by this disease. The only treatment is complete extraction of the tooth.

All of The Pet Hospital locations are fully equipped with digital dental x-ray technology so that we can give all our patients the best veterinary care available. Since veterinary patients can’t always tell us they are in pain, it is our duty as veterinarians to be the advocate for the pet. Dental x-ray is one valuable tool that allows us to visualize potentially painful lesions in the mouth and prevent suffering in our furry friends!

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