Getting To The Root Of Your Cat's Dental Health Status: The Benefits Of Dental Radiographs

Posted on: 7 June 2016

Whether your veterinarian has recommended a dental cleaning procedure for your cat or you have brought your cat to the clinic for a suspected oral problem, dental radiographs are essential in determining the overall state of your cat's dental health. Find out how veterinary dental radiology is used to preserve your cat's oral and overall health.

Feline Dental Disease

Dental disease is the most commonly seen health problem in feline patients, according to veterinary dental specialist Dr. Daniel T. Carmichael. One common dental disease in cats is periodontal disease, which can be initially diagnosed during a routine health examination. The treatment for periodontal disease begins with a dental cleaning procedure, which must be performed in the hospital under anesthesia. During this procedure, your cat's 30 teeth are scaled and polished. While this may result in gleaming pearly whites, there may be an entirely different story unfolding beyond the visible chewing surfaces of your cat's teeth. Taking dental radiographs will reveal the structural status of the areas of your cat's teeth that you cannot see, which includes the roots of each tooth and the surrounding bone.

Diagnostic Imagery Through Radiographs

If your cat is brought to the veterinary clinic because she is refusing to put weight on one leg, your veterinary team fires up the x-ray machine to get a look at the bones in that leg. It is the only way to determine what is going on beneath the visible, yet not transparent, layer of your cat's skin. The same concept applies to dental radiographs. You may bring your cat to the clinic because she exhibits a symptom that could indicate a potential oral health problem. Such symptoms include the following:

  • Drooling
  • Pawing at her face or repeatedly rubbing her face on surfaces
  • Reluctance to eat
  • Dropping food from her mouth while attempting to chew
  • Pulling her head away when you attempt to pet her face

Cats are masters at hiding their pain, and by the time you observe these symptoms, her level of discomfort has escalated. Any of these symptoms warrants the use of dental radiographs as a means of diagnostic imagery to determine the cause of her discomfort. Dental radiographs are also used to determine the extent of injury to a cat's teeth and jaws when she has sustained head or facial trauma. 

The Big Reveal

Some dental problems, such as tartar accumulation, worn teeth or chipped teeth, can be seen easily on the crown, which is the visible portion of the tooth. Many problems that affect the roots of the teeth and the surrounding bone are only revealed through dental radiographs. Some of these conditions include:

Once dental extractions are performed, dental radiographs are repeated to reveal if any root fragments have been left behind that need to be removed. Dental radiographs also provide valuable insight as to how extensive a cat's periodontal disease has become, which helps your veterinarian to determine the most effective treatment plan. Dental radiographs can be compared over time to track the progression of a periodontal disease as well.

The Dental Radiograph Process

Just as with human dental radiographs, a bite plate must remain in place at several locations within the oral cavity to attain images of diagnostic quality. Unlike their human owners, even the most placid and angelic cats are not going to lie cooperatively with their mouths wide open. This means that your cat will require sedation for dental radiographs to be taken. If your cat is undergoing a dental cleaning procedure, she will be under anesthesia already. If she requires a dental x-ray because she sustained an injury or has exhibited symptoms of tooth trouble, she may require only a mild sedative for the necessary images to be taken. Dental radiographs can be completed in minutes, especially with modern digital dental radiograph units.

The best way for your veterinarian to ensure that periodontal disease and other oral health problems are effectively addressed and treated is to take advantage of the aforementioned benefits that dental radiology provides. Your cat may not smile at the idea of having her teeth photographed, but you will at the result of seeing your feline friend healthier and happier for years to come. For more information on how radiology can help your cat, check out websites like​.