Dental X-Ray of a cat with explanations of the problems.

Many dental issues are hidden below the gum line, invisible to the naked eye, but easily seen using dental X-ray. This cat clearly has resorptive lesions (decay) that would not be seen without an x-ray.

Teeth are amazing and complex structures but they are a bit like icebergs. We can see the surface but we can’t see inside them or what lies below your pet’s the gum line. A tooth can look healthy to the eye but below the surface there can be all sorts of problems.

Teeth are rooted in bone. Some, like the large canine or fang tooth, have roots that are longer and wider than the crown (the part you can see). Other teeth, like the premolars and molars have multiple roots. The health of the tooth is dependent on its roots. The only way to see what is going on inside the tooth and how healthy the roots are is to take x-rays.

Blue Cross Animal Hospital has a digital dental x-ray unit. As radiographs are taken of your cat or dog’s teeth they are transferred directly to the patient’s computer file. Computer software lets our veterinarians zoom in and enhance images to get the best possible look at all the structures of the teeth.Not just any x-ray machine can be used to radiograph the dental structures. A dedicated dental x-ray machine must be used. Better still, Blue Cross Animal Hospital has a digital dental x-ray unit. As radiographs are taken of the teeth they are transferred directly to the patient’s computer file. Computer software lets our veterinarians zoom in and enhance images to get the best possible look at all the structures of the teeth.

Taking dental x-rays takes skill on the part of our veterinary technicians. On average a cat needs 8 different views to see all the teeth, dogs need 10 to 14 depending on how big they are.

Once the radiographs are done our veterinarians review them, looking for such things as crowding, damage to the roots, changes to the structure of the tooth and loss of bone around the roots. Along with a thorough examination of your pet’s mouth and probing of the teeth, X-rays are used to make decisions about the health of the teeth, and any treatment that may be needed. Often, as mentioned above, a tooth that has a normal looking crown can have a very diseased root. This will cause pain and can result in infection, leading to serious disease. By seeing into the tooth and its structures with x-ray we can avoid leaving a damaged tooth in the mouth.

2 Comments

  1. Hi. My cat Romeo is a patient at your office already. He is now 6 months old. Can Romeo have x Rays taken of his teeth if he does not yet beet his teeth cleaned?

    • Hi Rosetta,

      At six months old, Romeo is just getting brand new adult teeth. Unless there is some reason to think that there is a problem with how they are coming in, there’s really no need to take X-Rays. X-Rays and dental work in pets require an anesthetic, so we try and do them only when they are needed, or when your pet is under anaesthetic anyway for another reason. Anytime soon, Romeo will be ready for neutering. If you would like to get a full set of X-rays at that point to check that everything is okay with his adult teeth, we could certainly do them at that time if you wish.

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