The use of radiology in veterinary dentistry first made an appearance in the late 70’s-early 80’s but was mainly limited to teaching facilities and specialty practices around the country. The advancements in digital technology since the 90’s has made it possible for many veterinary practices around the country to now employ its use. Radiographs are one of the most important diagnostic tools available to the veterinary dentist allowing them to examine the teeth as well as the roots and surrounding bone structure. Radiographs also help veterinarians save many teeth that in the past were removed, sparing unnecessary discomfort to the patient.
The roots of cats and dogs’ teeth extend much farther below the gum line (more than 50% of the tooth) than human teeth. Many of the dental conditions seen in cats and dogs involve the portion of the tooth that cannot be seen below the gum-line.
Radiographs are critical in cases of periodontal disease which results when residual food, bacteria, and calculus (tarter) collect in the spaces between the gums and teeth causing an infection that can spread to the bone. This is especially important in the case of the mandible (lower jaw) of cats and small or toy breed dogs because periodontal disease can cause marked weakening of the mandible and significantly increase the possibility of a fracture.
Feline Odontoclastic Resorptive Lesions or FORLS are a very common oral disease and are seen in up to 60% of cats. Lesions often begin under the gum line and can only be detected with the use of radiographs. Radiographs help identify these early lesions and help make proper treatment decisions. The cause of FORLs is unknown but is under investigation. The only cure for these lesions is to remove the tooth. All other tooth-saving treatments have been shown to have poor results and these teeth are always painful.
Most pets with painful dental conditions do not show clinical signs that are obvious to the owner, but this does not mean that they are not feeling pain. The following illustration shows a case where there were no outward signs of a problem to the patient’s owner. The routine dental addressed this issue early in the process. If it has been left it would have over time continued to erode the bone in the jaw causing more and more discomfort for the patient.
The following are Indications for Dental Radiographs
- Prophylatic examination of teeth below the gum line
- Loose teeth (to determine whether extraction is necessary)
- Periodontal disease (to locate bony recession and pockets)
- Abscessed teeth (to determine the extent of infection)
- Fractured teeth
- Painful mouth
- Missing teeth
- Preoperative and postoperative extractions
- Feline resorptive lesions (to determine how best to extract the affected tooth
- Tooth abnormalities
- Oral tumors
- Oral fractures
- Nasal tumors
- Small exotics
Dental radiographs can reveal new information about the health of a Pet’s teeth that cannot be determined from a physical exam.
At Aztec Animal Clinic we take dental health very seriously. An examination of a patient’s teeth and associated structures is an integral part of our wellness visits. We recommend dental cleanings and assessments based on these thorough exams and always include radiographs in our dental assessments.