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Your pet needs dental care as much as you do, but most pet parents probably don't realize that you can get dental insurance for your pets, similar to how you can get it for yourself. Dental insurance can help defray the cost of your own dental work, but does it work the same way for pets? Does pet insurance cover dental work? Discover how pet dental insurance might help make your pet's dental care more affordable.
Does Standard Pet Insurance Cover Dental Work?
Typically, a standard pet insurance policy covers veterinary care relating to accidental injuries or sudden illnesses. So, while it might cover the cost of extracting or repairing an injured tooth, it likely won't cover routine cleanings or procedures to treat other dental diseases.
However, many pet insurance companies either offer separate insurance plans or add-ons to their primary plan that cover routine wellness checkups, including dental cleanings. Keep in mind that, as Pet Insurance U cautions, these add-on packages may limit the amount of money you can allocate toward dental care.
Since dental coverage varies from one pet insurance provider to the next, it's important to familiarize yourself with how pet insurance works and to carefully review each plan and policy you're considering, from top to bottom.
Is Pet Dental Insurance Necessary?
Dental insurance can help offset the costs associated with the procedures involved in proper oral care screenings and cleanings. The procedures are often referred to as prophylaxis appointments; or preventative procedures. They require pets to be placed under general anesthesia for a few of reasons says Acadia Veterinary Hospital:
- Safety: Unlike humans who understand their dentists instructions, a pet isn't necessarily as willing to cooperate long enough to perform a thorough exam.
- Ease: Another reason, is it just makes the job easier for the veterinarian or technician to perform their duties without having to worry about a squirmy pet.
- Reduce Stress: While humans don't necessarily like going to the dentist, we understand the value of it and can generally sit through a procedure. However, a pet doesn't have the same luxury of knowing the benefits, and these procedures can stress them out. It also helps them avoid any pain that they might endure if the pet is dealing with diseases or infections.
Your veterinarian will perform a complete oral exam to look for any major issues like cracks, plaque and tarter buildup, or evidence of larger oral health problems such as gingivitis. They will also do dental X-rays (called dental radiographs) to check for things such as cracked teeth or issues under the gums. Finally, they will end the procedure with a proper cleaning of their teeth to remove any excess plaque and tarter buildup.
In addition to annual oral health appointments, both dogs and cats might need additional procedures over the course of their lifetimes, such as deep cleanings, tooth extractions and treatment for tooth infections or gum disease. Make no mistake about it — dental work is vital. If left untreated, dental issues can lead to far more serious health conditions.
With that said, some pets are more likely than others to require procedures beyond routine cleanings. Older pets are more likely to develop tooth decay and gum disease than younger pets. Breed can also play a role. Pugs and Chihuahuas, for example, both have tiny mouths that are prone to crowded teeth, which can lead to a number of dental problems, says iHeartDogs. And International Cat Care explains that some cat breeds, especially short-nosed breeds like Persians and exotic shorthairs, are at higher risk of dental issues.
How to Care for Your Pet's Dental Health at Home
The biggest culprit of dental disease in pets is lack of a regular canine oral care plan. You can help reduce the need for cleanings and other dental procedures by regularly brushing your pet's teeth. Daily brushing is ideal, but if this isn't possible, treating your pet's water with an enzymatic solution and giving them dental treats and chew toys can help keep their teeth clean between brushings.
You can also look to get your dog or a cat a pet food that is formulated for oral healthcare such as Hill's Science Diet Adult Oral Care dog food or cat food. If you're looking for proper oral care products, including treats and food, to give to your pet, look for ones that bear the Veterinary Oral Health Council (VOHC) seal. Use of the seal is awarded to products that properly demonstrate through clinical studies that they can help reduce or prevent the build up of plaque or tartar.
Doing as much care for your pet's teeth and oral hygiene is an important risk mitigator when it comes to future dental procedures; plus, think how your mouth would feel when you've gone a day or two without brushing!
If your pet is young, healthy, isn't genetically predisposed to dental issues and you take excellent care of their teeth, you might decide that dental coverage isn't necessary. Otherwise, investing in pet dental insurance can be a great way to reduce the cost of oral care over your pet's lifetime.
Jean Marie Bauhaus
Jean Marie Bauhaus is a pet lover, freelance writer and novelist. She currently lives in the Ozarks with her husband and their gaggle of four-footed dependents, where she enjoys watching a wide array of wild animals in her backyard while drinking her morning coffee.