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Dental Radiology Conversation Starters for Vet Techs

by Cathy Barnette - February 18, 2019 at 9:00 AM
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In most small animal practices, vet techs are key players in presenting dental treatment plans to clients. As you present these treatment plans, clients often have questions regarding the procedure, costs, expected recovery, and other factors. 

One common question, asked by many clients, is: “Does my pet really need dental radiographs?”
Obviously, yes… but why? 
When a client puts you on the spot, that can be a tough question to answer. You know that dental radiographs are important, but how can you explain their benefits in a concise, client-friendly way?  
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As you begin your explanation, consider these five benefits of dental radiology:

1. Dental radiographs are essential in cats. They are often the only way to detect painful resorptive lesions

Resorptive lesions are a common cause of dental disease and oral pain in cats. These resorptive lesions typically develop at or just below the gumline, making them difficult to detect on exam. While some resorptive lesions can be felt with a dental explorer, many lesions can only be detected with dental radiographs. 

2. Dental radiographs can help detect periodontal disease 

Although periodontal probing is valuable, it does not find all periodontal disease. Dental radiographs can detect periodontal disease that is not detectable with probing. Dental radiographs can also kept as part of a pet’s medical record, allowing periodontal disease to be monitored over time.

3. Dental radiographs make extractions safer

Pre-extraction radiographs allow the health of the bone surrounding the tooth to be evaluated. In small breed dogs with severe dental disease, for example, it is not uncommon for the mandible to be extremely thin and susceptible to fracture. Pre-extraction radiographs help the vet make treatment decisions and prepare for possible complications.
Post-extraction radiographs allow the vet to ensure that all tooth root fragments have been removed. Retained root fragments can lead to abscesses and other complications. 

4. Dental radiographs are the only way to detect disease within the tooth

Small tooth fractures may appear clinically insignificant on exam, but dental radiographs can tell another story. If the pulp canal is widened or there are visible abnormalities at the tooth root, this provides evidence that the tooth is dead or diseased and should be treated with extraction or root canal. 

5. Dental radiographs are necessary to evaluate “missing” teeth.

Many pets are missing teeth. Often, these teeth have fallen out due to periodontal disease or have been extracted previously. In some cases, however, teeth are broken off at the crown, impacted, or embedded in the jaw tissue. These conditions can only be diagnosed with dental radiographs, allowing appropriate treatment . 
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  1. Niemiec, B. 2011. The importance of dental radiology. Today’s Veterinary Practice. 

About Cathy Barnette

Cathy Barnette is a practicing small animal veterinarian, freelance writer, and contributor to XPrep Learning Solutions. She is passionate about both veterinary medicine and education, working to provide helpful information to veterinary teams and the general public. In her free time, she enjoys spending time in nature with her family and leading a Girl Scout troop.

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