The importance of quality intra-oral radiographs

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Nala, a healthy FS German shepherd, was referred to North Coast Veterinary Specialists & Referral Centre because of marked gingival swelling affecting the right caudal maxilla and right caudal mandible. The referring veterinarian identified the swellings on a routine examination. A comprehensive oral health assessment and treatment (COHAT) was performed for Nala. 

intra-oral radiographsClinical findings: On the right side, there was marked gingival enlargement involving the right caudal maxilla and mandible (figure 1). 

In the right caudal maxilla, tooth 108 (right upper PM 4) was missing and tooth 109 (right upper 1st molar) was partially erupted. In the right caudal mandible, tooth 409 (right lower 1st molar) was missing and tooth 408 (right lower PM4) was buccally rotated. There were also tooth-like projections piercing through the gingiva in the 104 (right upper canine), 108 and 409 sites.

It is important to offer intraoral radiographs when confronted with a missing tooth or teeth, to see if the tooth is missing or impacted, or has associated pathology. In this case, a whole mouth series of radiographs were taken, utilising the iM3 CR7 and the large size 4 and 5 plate to reduce the number of exposures required for the series.

Radiographic findings: The caudal maxilla and caudal mandible (figure 2) show several varying density structures as well as several supernumerary teeth overlying the impacted (108/409) and partially erupted tooth, 109.

intra-oral radiographsBased on the clinical appearance, radiographic findings and age, a clinical diagnosis of multiple complex odontomas was made associated with the impacted/partially erupted teeth.

Odontomas are considered benign odontogenic tumours. Treatment, in this case, consisted of enucleation of the odontomas and extraction of the impacted/partially erupted teeth as well as rotated tooth 408. From my experience, block resection of these tumours is usually not required. The clinical diagnosis was confirmed on histopathology.

Pre-surgery nerve blocks were performed, and the odontomas were excised, followed by the extraction of the supernumeraries and careful sectioning and extraction of the multirooted teeth 108/109/408/409. 

intra-oral radiographsThe LED high-speed handpiece (iM3) proved very helpful in the extraction process due to the depth of impaction of teeth 108/409. No bone graft was required, and primary closure of wounds was performed. 

intra-oral radiographPost-operative radiographs were taken to confirm the complete removal of the teeth (figure 3). On re-check, one week later, Nala was her normal self.

This case emphasises the importance of a good diagnostic work-up which, in this case, included a full mouth series of intraoral radiographs with the larger size 4 and 5 plates (minimising the number of exposures required). The case also emphasises the importance of interpretation of these radiographs which assisted in coming to a quick clinical diagnosis. Management of this case was thus straightforward.

Finally, it is especially important when identifying a missing tooth (or teeth) in a young animal to always take intraoral radiographs to determine whether the tooth is truly missing or is impacted or has pathology associated with it.  

By Dr Anthony Caiafa BVSc BDSc MANCVS, North Coast Veterinary Specialists & Referral Centre Sunshine Coast, QLD 

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