The Importance of Dental X-rays in Cats

By Jan Bellows, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, ABVP

Care & Wellness, Dental

How are dental x-rays taken in cats?  

Small animal x-ray machine, similar to human unitDental x-rays in 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 cat’s teeth and those areas below the gum line that are hidden from view.

 Unlike humans, cats need to be under general anesthesia for dental x-rays.

Why is it important for my cat to have his teeth x-rayed?

 Cats cannot simply tell us when their teeth are diseased, and some cats never show that they’re in pain. In many cases, x-rays are the only way for a veterinarian to know your cat has a dental problem that can be treated, relieving discomfort.

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

"In many cases, x-rays are the only way for a veterinarian to know your cat has a
dental problem that can be treated,
relieving discomfort."

How often should my cat’s teeth be x-rayed?

Cats need an oral examination under anesthesia whenever there are missing, discolored or fractured teeth, swollen and inflamed gums, oral growths, and bad breath. Even without any of these signs, cats need to have their mouths x-rayed at least once every year. Remember, one human year is the same as 5-7 cat years. People routinely have dental x-rays at least every other year.

 Minimal inflammation surrounding the cat’s lower left canine tooth   X-ray showing a significant tooth resorption of the incisor and canine necessitating extractions

"Even without any of these signs, cats need to have their mouths x-rayed at
least once every year."

Must my cat be anesthetized for x-rays?

Yes, cats have 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 would not be accurately placed. Thanks to the patient assessment, anesthesia is tailored specifically for your cat and closely monitored during procedures – it’s considered to be very safe.

 Anesthetized and monitored cat during the oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedure   Anesthetized and monitored cat during the oral assessment, treatment, and prevention procedure

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 cats from this very small amount of exposure.

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