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Pet Dentals – Why X-Rays Are Needed

Author: Dr. Jason Nicholas

Published: February 1, 2016

Updated: July 5, 2024

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dog xrays for dental health

A picture is worth a 1,000 words

Seeing as how it’s National Pet Dental Health Month, I wanted to take this opportunity to mention an important and oft-unthought-of aspect of having your pet’s teeth evaluated and cleaned.

I know this isn’t exactly the sexiest of topics, but it really is an important one. I hope you’ll bear with me, I’ll keep it brief. The important aspect I’m speaking of… dental X-rays (more correctly called dental radiographs).

Taking dental radiographs is the only way to know the true health and stability of your pet’s teeth

Yes, much can be determined by closely evaluating the visible surfaces of your pet’s teeth, and even more by probing around the teeth for signs of gum and bone loss. But, comparable to the situation with icebergs, much more tooth (and information) lay below the surface. And it is only with radiographs that this important additional information can be learned.

Icebergs are like dog teeth everything is below the surfaceWhat hides below the surface…

Dental abscess
Tooth root abscess
Source: Tieton Drive Animal Clinic

Resorptive lesions
Resorptive lesion cat
Source: Center For Veterinary Dentistry &
Oral Surgery

Periodontal disease
Periodontal disease bone loss
Source: Dr. Brett Beckman

Missing or unerupted teeth
Unerupted tooth
Source: Apex Dog And Cat Dentistry

These are a few of the more common possibilities of what's below the surface, but there are others.

Up close cat teethDental issues can be painful for your pet and can lead to additional problems

Please never underestimate the importance of your pet’s dental and oral health, and never overlook the important role that dental radiography has in helping to achieve and maintain that good health. Be sure to have your veterinarian perform dental radiography during your pet’s next tooth cleaning.

Take a moment to read these articles for additional reasons why it’s important to have your pet’s teeth cleanings done under anesthesia and the questions you can ask to help make anesthesia even safer for your pets.

By the way, you don’t have to go to a board-certified veterinary dentist to get dental X-rays, many general practice veterinary clinics have dental radiography capabilities (many even have the ability to take these images digitally, which is preferable). But if your vet doesn’t have that capability, or if your pet’s dental care needs would benefit from the additional training and expertise of a board-certified veterinary dentist, you can find one here.

About the author

Profile picture for Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Jason Nicholas

Dr. Nicholas graduated with honors from The Royal Veterinary College in London, England and completed his Internship at the Animal Medical Center in New York City. He currently lives in the Pacific Northwest.

Dr. Nicholas spent many years as an emergency and general practice veterinarian obsessed with keeping pets safe and healthy. He is the author of Preventive Vet’s 101 Essential Tips book series.