Small as they are, the teeth of a dog or cat can cost as much to treat as human ones — and paying attention to them is fundamental to ensure your pet's overall health.
Pet insurance may help pay for dental care if your pet breaks a tooth or develops gum disease.
This type of coverage is typically folded into customary pet insurance coverage, unlike human health insurance, where dental coverage requires a separate policy.
Keep reading to learn more about pet dental insurance, how it works and what it covers.
Table of contents
- What does pet dental insurance cover?
- What pet dental insurance won't cover
- Common pet dental issues
- How to choose the right dental insurance for my pet
- Pet dental insurance cost
- Summary of Money's pet dental insurance guide
What does pet dental insurance cover?
Pet insurance usually covers at least the following dental health issues:
- Extraction or repair of broken teeth: By one estimate, 10% to 20% of dogs and cats will suffer a dental injury or fracture at some point in their lives. Depending on the scope of the damage, your vet might recommend root canal therapy, tooth extraction or dental bonding to restore very small fractures.
- Root canals: A root canal is considered a less invasive procedure than extracting a tooth, and a more beneficial one — since it often saves the tooth for the remainder of the dog's life. (If the mouth is still well supported without a tooth, extracting it can be a viable option.)
- Crowns: Dental crowns are a restoration option for dogs or cats as well as humans. The material most often used for pets’ crowns is metal. It's not only durable but also preserves more of the tooth's natural structure than other crown materials.
- Stomatitis: Stomatitis is a painful inflammation of the mouth, often including the gums, tongue, inner surfaces of the lips, and the floor and roof of the mouth. Pet insurance can cover antibiotics, professional cleanings, immunosuppressant drugs, steroids and full teeth extractions.
- Periodontal disease: Mouth diseases such as gingivitis and periodontitis affect the gums only, and involve inflammation. According to the American Veterinary Association, more than four out of every five dogs aged three or older show signs of at least minor gum disease. Cats aren't immune to these conditions either.
What pet dental insurance won’t cover
Dental pet insurance has some of the same coverage limitations that apply to our own dental insurance policies. But it also adds some other exclusions, such as preventive care (at least with standard coverage).
Here’s a list of dental work that pet insurance won't cover.
- Pre-existing conditions: Any dental illness or injury that took place before you bought a policy or during the waiting period is excluded from coverage. Even previous signs of mild gum inflammation are enough to void the policy's coverage for periodontal disease.
- Cosmetic, endodontic or orthodontic services: Dental services considered cosmetic or aesthetic won't be covered, including caps, implants, filings and orthodontia.
- Routine pet dental care: Pet insurance doesn't cover preventive dental exams, dental cleanings or supplies for at-home care, such as toothbrushes, toothpaste and dental chews.
- Dental illnesses or injuries caused by lack of preventive care: Pet insurance requires you to take your pet for dental cleanings and exams at least once a year. If the company finds you failed to uphold this agreement, it will deny any dental illness claims.
- Endodontic treatment of certain teeth in your pet's mouth: The fine print in most pet insurance policies states that only the carnassial and canine teeth qualify for endodontic coverage. For all other teeth, insurance will only reimburse the cost of extraction.
Common pet dental issues
Here’s a rundown of the dental problems a dog or cat can suffer. Signs that your pet may be suffering from these include noticeably bad breath or drooling.
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 dogs to veterinary clinics:
- Periodontal disease, which occurs along the gum line
- Mouth cysts or tumors
- Misaligned teeth and/or bite
- Broken or fractured jaws
- Cleft palate or related problems
- Extraction or repair of broken or damaged teeth (and roots)
- Infected teeth or abscesses
Dental problems in cats
Cats are susceptible to much the same oral health problems as dogs. But cats are also prone to what’s known as resorptive lesions, which occur when the dentin in teeth erodes beyond repair. These eroded areas in the enamel of the teeth can be very painful and resemble cavities in humans.
At-home care is the key to preventing dental illnesses
You can limit your pet’s risk of dental illness by performing routine dental care at home.
This starts by brushing your pet's teeth, similar to how you brush your own. Vets recommend a brushing routine of at least three times a week or more, using a toothbrush and toothpaste made specifically for cats and dogs. You can also ask your vet about water additives that help prevent tartar as your dog or cat drinks out of their bowl.
Dental chews for your dog or cat can also contribute to their dental health by helping break down plaque buildup, the damaging material that forms in the mouth and can damage the teeth and gums.
How to choose the right dental insurance for my pet
Here’s a rundown of insurers whose plans include pet dental insurance, along with some tips on how to buy pet insurance if dental coverage is important to you.
Pet insurance that covers dental
Here are companies that offer comprehensive dental coverage — as in both for illnesses and accidents — including the best cheap pet insurance plans.
- Nationwide Whole Pet with Wellness
- Pets Best
- Prudent Pet
Pay close attention not only to the covered conditions but also to the services that are eligible for reimbursement.
Some pet dental insurance plans will only reimburse you for tooth extractions even if other treatment options would preserve your pet's teeth. The best dental plans cover reconstructive services, root canals and other endodontic treatments that preserve the tooth's integrity as much as possible.
Here's a list of services and coverage restrictions to keep in mind when buying pet dental insurance.
- Root canals: ASPCA, Prudent Pet, Pumpkin, Spot and Healthy Paws don't cover endodontic treatment.
- Payout limits: Embrace and Lemonade pet insurance have a separate payout limit for dental insurance, and will only pay up to $1,000 a year for dental care.
- Caps and crowns: Most providers consider these cosmetic services and won't reimburse you. Figo, Lemonade, Trupanion, Fetch and Pets Best may offer coverage.
- Restrictions on hereditary and congenital dental problems: Check whether these conditions are excluded depending on your pet's age. That is the case with Pets Best, which will deny coverage if your pet is six months or older at enrollment.
- The number of teeth covered: So far, Fetch Pet Insurance is the only provider on our list that covers every tooth in your pet's mouth. Others may only reimburse you for endodontic treatment for the canines and carnassials.
Tips for selecting a pet dental insurance plan
If you want to buy pet insurance that covers dental care, read on for some pointers on what a policy will and won’t cover. These will help you minimize the cost of pet insurance and save money on a policy that's right for your pet.
Check whether dental coverage costs extra
Some companies charge extra to add dental coverage to your pet insurance plan. Lemonade pet insurance, for instance, charges around $13 for a dental illness add-on. Without this rider, the policy would only cover necessary tooth extractions due to an accident.
Look for policies that cover periodontal disease and endodontic treatment
Periodontal disease is the most common dental illness in cats and dogs, yet some pet insurance companies exclude it from coverage because it's a preventable condition (similar to heartworm or tick-borne illnesses).
Coverage for endodontic treatment also varies, much to the detriment of your pet's dental health. Imagine that your pet breaks a tooth and develops an infection, so your veterinarian recommends root canal therapy. While a root canal is less invasive and preserves your pet's natural tooth, you may be forced to ask for a tooth extraction if that's the only treatment your policy covers.
Look into any per-condition payout limits
Upon enrollment, pet owners can select their preferred payout limit (anywhere from $2,500 to unlimited). However, dental benefits might be subject to a lower limit. Such is the case with Lemonade and Embrace pet insurance, which cap dental coverage at $1,000 annually.
Ask about dental insurance for puppies and kittens
Some insurers disallow claims on dental coverage for very young animals. For example, policies from Lemonade exclude dental care for animals younger than 2 years old. Provisions can also change from time to time, so pet parents should check the details in published advice before they sign up.
Know that existing dental problems won't be covered
Pet insurance won't reimburse you for the cost of treating dental problems that predate your pet's enrollment. Indeed, insurers may require an oral inspection by a licensed vet for pets over the age of three to identify existing dental concerns.
Dental problems that arise soon after the policy begins may not be covered due to waiting periods (typically 14 days after the policy's effective date).
Compare the cost vs value of wellness add-ons for dental cleanings
Unfortunately, dental cleanings are only covered if you add a wellness rider to your policy, which typically adds $10 to $25 to your monthly premium. This plan type covers vaccinations, blood work, checkups and parasite screening.
Still, even the best pet wellness plans offer low payouts that may not cover the full cost of dental cleanings. Insurers reimburse $150 at most for one dental cleaning a year, and you’ll be on the hook for the outstanding balance.
In most cases, it's better to pay for this procedure out-of-pocket instead of subscribing to a monthly wellness plan.
Ask about coverage for non-routine dental cleanings prescribed by the vet
Let’s say your dog develops gum disease after you enroll them in pet insurance, and your vet thinks a dental cleaning should be part of their treatment. The cost of the cleaning should then be eligible for reimbursement — provided the insurer doesn’t determine that you neglected to provide your dog with necessary preventive dental care.
Pet dental insurance cost
Pet dental insurance costs the same as accident and illness coverage, since most pet insurance providers fold dental insurance into the base policy.
According to the North American Pet Insurance Association (NAPHIA), the average annual cost of pet insurance is $1,134 for dogs and $613 for cats.
Dog dental insurance cost
If you own a dog, expect to pay an average of $53 a month for pet health insurance.
We gathered quotes for a 1-year-old dog and found that rates ranged from $34 to $126 depending on the insurance company, the dog's breed and zip code.
Mixed medium breed
Dog teeth cleaning cost
Cleaning a dog's teeth at the vet often costs $500 to $1,000 or more. The vet bill generally includes a thorough dental examination and removal of tartar and plaque using general anesthesia and specialized equipment.
However, costs may soar if your vet has to extract teeth or if they identify additional dental issues that need treatment, such as a damaged tooth or gingivitis.
Dog tooth extraction cost
Tooth extractions can cost anywhere from $300 to $900 per tooth, depending on the severity of your dog's condition. Your vet might recommend extracting a tooth for a number of reasons: chipped or fractured teeth, unerupted teeth, gum disease, deciduous teeth and abnormal tooth or jaw development.
Cat dental insurance cost
At an average of $32 a month, accident and illness cat pet insurance is more affordable than pet insurance for dogs.
Our price survey for a 1-year-old cat shows quotes that range from $25 to $73, depending on the insurer and the type of cat.
Cat teeth cleaning cost
Cat dental cleanings range between $100 and $400. MetLife pet insurance reports that the average cost is around $190 but varies by provider.
To complete the cleaning, the veterinarian will administer general anesthesia to examine your cat's teeth and remove plaque and tartar using both hand and ultrasonic scalers.
Cat tooth extraction cost
Your veterinarian may recommend a tooth extraction if your cat's teeth are damaged beyond repair due to periodontal disease or feline tooth resorption.
Expect to pay anywhere from $50 to $200 to extract a single tooth. Severe cases where multiple teeth require removal can cost up to $1,000 or more.
Pet dental insurance FAQs
Does pet insurance cover dental?
Does pet insurance cover dental cleaning?
Pet insurance won't cover preventive dental cleanings, which are ideally done once a year.
Do animals get cavities?
The most common dental condition in pets is periodontal disease, which affects 80% to 90% of dogs over the age of three and between 50% to 90% of cats four years and older.
Summary of Money's Pet dental insurance guide
- Pet dental insurance covers the cost of treating illnesses like gum disease, stomatitis, oral cancer and infections, as well as broken teeth and other dental accidents.
- Pet dental insurance is already included in most accident and illness plans, save for a select few providers that charge separately for dental coverage.
- The services that are eligible for reimbursement vary by provider. A handful of companies only cover tooth extractions even if there are better dental treatments available.
- The best pet insurance policies cover periodontal disease, broken teeth, root canals and reconstructive treatment and have no payout caps on dental benefits.
- Pet dental insurance won't cover pre-existing conditions, cosmetic procedures (think caps, implants or fillings), dental illness or injuries that result from the owner's neglect, or routine dental expenses (checkups, cleanings, etc.).