Small as they mostly are, the teeth of a dog or cat can cost as much or more to treat as human ones – and paying attention to them should be part of your health care priorities as a pet owner. Pet insurance may help when it comes to paying for that care, and to keeping your pet’s oral health – and, in turn, its overall health – high.
Unlike insurance for humans, where dental coverage requires a separate policy, pet dental insurance is folded into customary pet insurance – or the policies of some pet insurance companies, at least.
Pet dental basics
Here’s a rundown of the dental problems a dog or cat can suffer, along with what pet dental insurance may or may not cover. Signs that your pet may be suffering from these include notably bad breath or drooling. While there are dentists that specialize in pet care, much veterinary dentistry can be performed by the same professional that attends to your pet’s other health care.
Common Dental Problems in Dogs
Dogs rarely get cavities, but are otherwise susceptible to the same dental issues as their owners. And, as with humans, many of these problems can be detected during a dental exam or with the help of X-rays or radiographs.
- Here are some of the dental issues that most frequently bring pets to veterinary clinics:
- Broken or damaged teeth, and roots
- Periodontal disease, which occurs along the gum line
- Infected teeth or abscesses
- Mouth cysts or tumors
- Misaligned teeth and/or bite
- Broken or fractured) jaw
- Cleft palate or related problems
Common dental problems in cats
Cats are susceptible to much the same oral diseases as dogs, so most or all of the health problems for canines also apply to felines. But cats are also prone to what’s known as resorptive lesions – eroded areas in the enamel of the teeth that can be very painful and resemble cavities in humans.
What does pet dental insurance cover
Pet insurance usually covers at least these dental problems:
- Extraction or repair of broken teeth
- Root canals
- Gum disease
What pet dental insurance won’t cover
Dental pet insurance has some of the same coverage limitations as apply for policies for humans. But it also adds some other exclusions, such as preventive care. Here’s a list of dental work that typically isn’t covered by pet insurance plans:
- Pre-existing conditions
- Cosmetic, endodontic, or orthodontic services such as caps, implants and filings
- Routine care such as regular dental exams and dental cleaning
Companies that offer pet dental insurance plans
Here are companies that offer comprehensive dental coverage – as in both for illnesses and accidents, save for the exclusions we note above.
However, some companies exclude younger animals from dental coverage; Lemonade, for example, doesn’t cover dental care in animals younger than 2 years old. Also, provisions can change from time to time, so pet owners should check the details before you sign on.
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Pet Dental Insurance FAQ
Dogs (and cats) can get cavities, but the odds of developing such dental disease are much less likely than in humans, say veterinary dentists. The reasons include that canines produce less of the acid that contributes to a buildup of tartar and plaque; their teeth are more pointed, giving fewer places in which decay can begin; and their diet is less sweet, with fewer of the sugars that help trigger tooth damage.
How much does dog teeth-cleaning cost?
Having the teeth of your dog professionally cleaned at the vet typically costs between $200 and $700 or so. That relatively high cost is partly due to the typical need for the animal to be anesthetized during the procedure (although some cleanings can be anesthesia-free). Costs can also climb because x-rays and other diagnostics may be required, and if the vet discovers gum disease, and so has to take additional dental procedures.
How much does cat teeth cleaning cost?
Fees for cleaning cat’s teeth are much like those for dogs – which is to say, between $200 and about $700.
How often should a dog’s teeth be cleaned?
For most dog breeds, the typical recommendation is for annual professional teeth cleanings. However, some dogs, especially smaller breeds, may require 2 cleanings per year, to prevent loss of teeth. After a cleaning, your vet can recommend the appropriate cleaning interval for your pet.
How can I get plaque off my dog’s teeth?
You can take care of some aspects of your pet’s oral care yourself. Brushing or wiping your dog’s teeth daily should suffice to remove dental plaque before it turns into tartar that can cause damage, say veterinarians. However, consult your vet on the best brush or cloth, toothbrush and toothpaste (if any) to use. (Human toothpaste is not recommended, since it contains ingredients that can upset the animal’s digestion when swallowed.)
Key Takeaways of Pet Dental Insurance
Coverage for dental care is one potential benefit to pet insurance. But you can’t buy a policy only because you want coverage for your pet’s teeth. Rather, it’s important to assess if the overall benefits of insurance add up to a pet need that’s worth its cost. (For many people, it doesn’t, in our judgment.)
If you decide to get a policy, research the dental care provisions of the various providers. This coverage varies in what it will cover, and the differences may affect your choice. Also, since regular pet insurance policies do not customarily cover preventive procedures, such as teeth cleaning and dental checkups, you might consider adding a wellness plan to your policy, which will cover such expenses, both dental and non-dental.
Finally, dental trouble – and your potential need for a pet insurance policy to cover treatment for it – can be reduced with an ounce of prevention. Vets recommend regular brushing or wiping of your pet’s teeth, along with annual cleanings to head off the possibility of oral surgery for such conditions as gingivitis and the need for tooth extractions.