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Dogs Teeth Removed without XRays?!

7589 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Laco
We took both our cat and dog to the vet for the removal of bad teeth. Our cat went in and they explained that they would only know how many teeth to remove after Xrays. This made me feel comfortable and assured me they would only be removing teeth if it was truly necessary, it ended up being two teeth.

The following day our dog was scheduled and like an idiot I just assumed they'd also be xraying our dog, who ended up having 6 teeth removed. However when we went in to pick him up, I was told that they typically only xray for cats, that for our dog it was unnecessary, due to their anatomical differences.

While I don't doubt the differences between them, and that it might be easier to spot serious decay on a dog, I was still left feeling uncomfortable that they had not xrayed the dogs teeth, it just seems as though it would give a much more accurate picture - whether that meant fewer teeth could have been removed or more teeth needed to be removed.

If anyone can provide any medical knowledge on this I'd appreciate it. Are my concerns misplaced?

Thank You
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It is not uncommon for dogs to need extractions, particularly in small breeds. What breed do you have?

One of my dogs (mini schnauzer) recently had a dental cleaning, which included a full mouth X-ray. Ultimately he had 6 teeth pulled (bottom incisors). Visually, you wouldn't have known those teeth needed to be removed (totally clean, not fractured, only one was slightly loose). But the X-ray revealed that there were pockets in the gums and possible root damage. They did it to preserve the canines. If gum disease is allowed to spread it will claim more and more teeth.

The only reason I can think that they would do an X-ray for cats and not dogs is because cats have a lot less teeth? So they want to be more sure about extractions? Not sure on that rationale. I do know that dogs have a lot of teeth and they can get by just fine with a few extractions if it keeps the mouth healthier.
I've never had a dog that needed teeth extracted but I think I'd be looking for a new vet. That doesn't sound right to me, an x-ray should be done to be sure what teeth need to be removed.
I do agree that an X-ray should have been done. Furthermore, when my dog had extractions, they called me during the surgery to discuss the extractions because it was more than we had thought during the consult.
Thanks for the feedback.
It is not uncommon for dogs to need extractions, particularly in small breeds. What breed do you have?
He is a shih tzu. I don't have any doubt that extractions were needed, even my uneducated eye could tell that, so I wanted them taken out so he would not be in discomfort. If anything my concern is did they remove only the ones that were so bad it could easily be seen by eye, yet not take one out that an xray would have revealed that will need to be extracted in a couple more years? I wanted to avoid him having to go through this again - if possible.

The only reason I can think that they would do an X-ray for cats and not dogs is because cats have a lot less teeth?
The vet said it had to do with how the teeth our situated within the gums, in the cat it's harder to tell, whereas on the dog it was easy to see even with the naked eye. And I have confirmed with some research that is accurate.

The fact that they did xray the cat certainly suggests to me that they did it when they felt it was necessary, and I guess in our dogs case it was very obvious which teeth needed to be removed. It just seems like xrays would be even better.
I agree that an X-ray could have reveal more problem teeth. There definitely can be damage below the gum line that hasn't manifested itself yet. Like a broken root, etc. that is why I asked for full mouth X-rays. But it was an add on, my vet does not do X-rays as a matter of procedure, only when requested.
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Having Shih Tzu x Maltese crosses, I have had lots of dogs that had to have teeth extracted. I have never had any x-rayed or even had it offered at any Vet around here. Just getting their teeth cleaned and a couple of extractions comes to more than $500 so would not want to have to pay an x-ray on top of that.
Wow! I paid $400, full mouth X-rays, cleaning, 6 extractions. Plus they did pre-surgery bloodworm, heart monitoring during the operation, etc. It was top notch.
when doing dog or cat dentals, radiographs are always preferred as there is a lot of pathology one cannot possibly determine from just looking at the teeth (no matter how close one looks, probes, wiggles etc.). Several studies done have proved that up to 30% of 'routine' dentals miss teeth that should be extracted, but aren't because the problems below the surface were not detected with radiographs.... however many of our clients chose NOT to do radiographs due to the costs, and as a result we are probably missing some teeth that really should be extracted but aren't. We leave it up to the clients because full mouth rads at our practice is $250, a cost that seems too much to many clients who are used to much lower prices for dentals (before we even had a dental X-ray machine). I personally still radiograph all teeth that are removed to make sure we didn't leave behind any roots (a very very common problem at a lot of hospitals)... we usually end up not charging the client for this service... the excuse we use is that we want to make sure we are not making a mistake (and frankly there often is no other way to know for sure)... so the management lets us get away with that, but still frowns upon it.

The digital age has made dental radiography so much easier and faster than it used to be (I remember back, not that long ago when we had to hold tiny pieces of film in the patients mouths and then put them individually in dip tanks of developer and fixer... took so long just to see if we even got the right angle to see the roots etc.... took forever!). My wife is a technician at another practice (much smaller and with more time scheduled for each procedure) and there dental radiographs are mandatory.. .no rads, no dentals, and she is amazed how often they discover rotten teeth that looked totally healthy on the surface (and these are MOSTLY dogs!).

So for a veterinary facility to say they can SEE which teeth are bad is bologna. Sure, they can see a lot of bad teeth, but certainly not all of them. And another thing radiographs can show (and often do) are situations when the roots are 'wrapped around' the lower jaw cortex and removal of those teeth could easily result in a jaw fracture, which you wouldn't know if you had not taken a film first... THOSE teeth get left behind no matter how bad the pathology and recommendations to see a dental specialist are made (let THEM fracture the jaw!)... fractured jaws are not that rare in the world of dog dentistry, and really there is no excuse for them.
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For what it's worth most vets don't even have the capability to take dental X-rays. The value of routine dental care for pets has only recently, in the past few years, begun to gain popularity. Cats have thinner jaw bones than dogs, and as a result they have great chance of an accidental broken jaw for what may appear to be a "routine" extraction. That being said, you are correct that it is always the best medicine to do a set of full mouth X-rays to evaluate what you cannot see, same a you would have done at your own dentist . The problem is that most owners are not willing to pay for such services. With people we have health insurance that usually covers a decent amount if not all of our routine dental care, so we don't see the actual cost that the dentist is charging our insurance company. With vet care you see ALL of the cost, and if you have pet insurance they usually only reimburse you a portion of the bill.

Just as an FYI most pets usually require more than one dental cleaning within their lifetime. You can help minimize the frequency of dental procedures by brushing your dogs teeth on a daily basis. But even with us most people usually get cleanings done 2x a year, and that's with throughly brushing our teeth 1-2 times a day & regular flossing. If your dog ever needs another dental, I would request they do a set of full mouth X-rays at that time.
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Thanks again all for the replies, just thought I'd give an update on this old thread. While I still would have felt more comfortable with something more than a visual inspection, it worked out well. The little guy was starting to get a little nasty before the extractions - I'm sure it was because he was in discomfort. Within a week after the extractions he was back to his spunky and more affectionate self.

And his breath has never had an issue since the day of the extractions. Prior to that it could be rancid.
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Glad its working out so well for you, though I think I would be a lot more comfortable gathering as much information as possible, using all available tools, IE: X-rays, etc., prior to any procedure performed on Samantha. I would want to be as sure as possible, that anything necessary was not being missed, as well as knowing that nothing that was not necessary would be done.
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