Dental Radiographs

Dogs and cats simply cannot tell us when their teeth are diseased, and some pets never show that they are in pain even though they are.


How Are Dental X-Rays Taken in Dogs and Cats?

Dental X-rays in dogs and cats are similar to those taken in humans. An X-ray machine using small amounts of radiation is used to see the inside of your dog or cat’s teeth and those areas below the gumline that are hidden from view.

Unlike humans, dogs and cats need to be under general anesthesia for dental X-rays. Anesthesia is considered to be a safe procedure and will be performed after a general examination. It is tailored to the individual, and your pet is continuously monitored during the dental exam. Your veterinarian may perform pre-anesthetic blood tests to ensure that kidney and liver function are satisfactory prior to administering anesthetic (see handout “Pre-anesthetic Bloodwork” for more information).

Why is it important for my pet to have their teeth X-rayed?

Dogs and cats simply cannot tell us when their teeth are diseased, and some pets never show that they are in pain even though they are. In many cases, X-rays are the only way for your veterinarian to know your pet has a serious dental problem that can be treated, relieving discomfort. Teeth may appear normal, but the X-ray may show severe bone loss due to painful periodontal disease. Once the problem is identified, your veterinarian can treat the problem, therefore relieving your pet’s discomfort.

Cleaning a pet’s teeth without X-rays often results in missed opportunities to improve the quality of life and health of your dog or cat.

How often should my pet’s teeth be X-rayed?

Dogs and cats need an oral examination under anesthesia whenever there are swollen and inflamed gums, oral growths, bad breath, or missing, discolored, or broken teeth. Even without any of these signs, dogs and cats need to have their mouths X-rayed at least once every year.

Remember, one human year is the same as five to seven dog years, and people routinely have dental X-rays at least every other year.

Must my pet be anesthetized for X-rays?

Yes, dogs have 42 teeth and cats 30 teeth that will be X-rayed. They need to be still during the oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedures. Without anesthesia, the X-ray sensor cannot be accurately placed. After your veterinarian examines your pet and runs necessary pre-anesthetic tests, anesthesia can be tailored specifically for your pet and closely monitored during procedures. Anesthesia is considered to be very safe.

Should I be concerned about excessive radiation?
No. Veterinarians use only a small amount of radiation to take dental X-rays. There are no reports of adverse radiation effects in dogs or cats from this very small amount of exposure.