CVS reports that after running a clinical improvement project to improve the diagnosis of periodontal disease in cat and dogs, its participating first opinion practices have tripled the number of patients receiving dental x-rays.

The company points to research which showed that 42% of cats and 28% of dogs have lesions which are only detectable on x-ray1.

Failing to identify teeth with root lesions can have a significant impact on patient welfare, causing ongoing pain and eventual tooth loss.

The first priority for the CVS clinical improvement project was to review how effective its first opinion small animal practices were at using radiography in dental examinations.

In July 2021, only 16.2% of dental cases had radiography performed and clinicians were mostly using visual examination to guide decision making.

The project then identified the barriers to using dental radiography as: a lack of dental radiography equipment in a practice, a lack of clinician confidence in taking and interpreting the radiographs and a belief that pet owners would not want to pay for it.

To address the first issue, CVS installed new dental radiography machines at over 104 sites, at a cost of £615,000 over the course of the year. 

The company then upskilled its vets and nurses in dental radiography - looking specifically at getting good quality radiographs and interpretation.

Finally, the company conducted an audit of each participating practice’s dental radiology data, updating it each month and sharing the results with the practices..

One year on, CVS says the data shows that 43% of dental cases in project practices are now using dental radiography as part of their consultation.

In the best cases, some practices have been using radiography in 100% of cases.

Hub Clinical Lead Deborah Komianos said: “When you open a patient’s mouth and look inside, seemingly normal teeth are oftentimes not normal.

"So vets and nurses can risk missing periodontal disease.

“Dental radiology has historically been underutilised but we believe it adds valuable information to dental consultations and is an important decision-making tool.

“We’re thrilled with the early results in our practices.

"It shows there’s been a real change of mind-set and behaviour towards using X-rays in dentistry – as well as increased confidence in execution."


  1. ‘Diagnostic value of full mouth radiography in cats’, 1998, Verstraete, Kass and Terpak.

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