Full-mouth oral radiographs are an essential tool for any comprehensive oral health assessment andtreatment. More than 60% of a tooth’s structure is hidden under the gum line and thus cannot beevaluated with an oral exam alone (either awake or under anesthesia). Over 80% of dogs over the ageof 3 and more than 66% of cats over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease, which can lead tosystemic disease affecting other parts of the body. Even in pets with no visible signs of dental diseaseand no abnormal findings on initial oral assessment under anesthesia, dental radiographs often revealhidden disease (in 27.8% of dogs and 41.7% of cats with no initial concerns noted).
Dental radiographs allow your veterinarian to view the internal anatomy of the teeth, the tooth roots,and the bones and ligaments surrounding the roots. Initial dental radiographs also provide a baselinefor future comparison as your animal ages.
These intra-oral radiographs taken within your pet’s mouth)—are taken while your pet is underanesthesia because pets don’t know how to cooperate when small radiographic films or digital sensorsare placed in their mouths. The films must be placed at specific angles against the teeth with the mouthboth open and closed to get the best diagnostic shots, and an animal’s instinct is to chew and swallowanything it feels on its tongue. However, the dental x-ray procedure is very quick and painless and cangenerally be accomplished in less than 15 minutes when performed by a trained technician.
Dental radiographs help your veterinarian evaluate the health of your pet’s teeth by identifying thefollowing problems not seen by the naked eye:
· Tooth fractures
· Retained deciduous teeth (baby teeth that didn’t erupt at the proper time)
· Tooth root abscesses or infections
· Areas where teeth appear to be missing (broken roots or parts of teeth may be hidden under the gumline, and unerupted teeth may lead to cysts that destroy surrounding jawbone and affect surrounding teeth)
· Impacted teeth (teeth that are wedged in and cannot erupt normally)
· Feline Resorptive Lesions (painful holes or erosions on the surface of the teeth found mainly in cats)
· Bone or soft tissue tumors
· Infection of the jawbone
· Non-vital teeth that can lead to infection
· Height of the bone below the gum line
· Bone changes and degree of bone loss due to periodontal disease or some other cause
· Size of the periodontal ligament space
· Presence, or disappearance, of the lamina dura, the bone bundle attached to the periodontal ligament.
All of these diagnostics help your veterinarian determine the degree of possible periodontal disease, predict future tooth and bone loss, and allow for a full treatment protocol to be recommended for your pet.