Pet Dental Insurance: What It Covers and Costs in 2024

Lori Zizka, RVT
By Lori Zizka, RVT. Reviewed by Rhiannon Koehler, DVM on May 2, 2024
a vet examines a corgi dog's teeth up close using blue latex gloves.

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Dental disease in pets is more common than many pet parents realize. Studies show that 80–90% of dogs over the age of 3 have some form of dental disease, and between 50–90% of cats older than age 4 are also impacted by dental disease.

And just like in humans, dental disease in pets is more than just about the teeth. It can make existing diseases worse and possibly linked to other diseases, including heart, liver, and kidney disease, and dramatically reduce the quality of life for your senior pet.

While there are things you can do at home to protect your pet’s dental health, such as daily brushing, your pet also needs regular cleanings at the vet’s office. Pet insurance dental coverage is a great way to help manage your pet’s dental expenses while providing great dental care.

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Is Pet Dental Insurance Worth It?

Having a pet insurance plan that includes dental cleanings, accidents, and illness can help you manage your pet’s dental care and protect you against expensive surprises.

Even if you practice excellent dental hygiene at home for your pet, including having the right toothbrush or dental tool for your dog or cat, they should still be getting professional dental care. It’s also likely that senior pets will eventually experience a more serious dental problem.

All pet dental cleanings should be performed under general anesthesia so your vet can thoroughly assess each tooth and look at the gum tissues. The American Animal Hospital Association and the American Veterinary Medical Association caution against non-anesthetic dental cleanings.

Routine cleanings can be expensive, and it can get more expensive if your pet needs oral surgery to remove any teeth. Your vet may not be able to tell if they need to do any extractions until they are able to do a thorough assessment of each tooth during your pet’s regular dental checkup/cleaning.

How Does Pet Dental Insurance Work? Is It Included in Regular Pet Insurance Policies?

Most companies don’t offer stand-alone or add-on pet dental insurance. If there is any dental coverage, you’ll find it noted in the bullet points or fine print of traditional pet insurance plans. There are three main types of traditional plans: accident-only, accident and illness, and wellness plans.

With most pet dental insurance, you will have to pay the total up-front cost at the vet, instead of paying a copay like you would at your dentist. Then you submit the receipt to the insurance company for approval and reimbursement.  

What Does Pet Dental Insurance Cover?

That depends on the type of traditional pet insurance you have and what the fine print says about dental coverage:

  • In general, an accident-only pet insurance plan would cover only dental accidents, like a fractured tooth. Some accident-only plans do not cover any dental disease.
  • An accident and illness pet insurance plan may or may not cover both dental accidents and dental illness, such as gum disease. There are exclusions, such as pets that showed signs of dental disease before you got the plan or pets over age 3 that don’t have proof of regular dental exams/cleanings.
  • Pet wellness plans may or may not cover dental cleanings; if they do, it is usually up to a set amount.
Some pet insurance companies will decline coverage for pre-existing dental conditions or complications caused by lack of routine dental care.

For small and medium dogs and cats, the AAHA recommends starting dental cleanings by age 1. For large and giant breeds, it’s recommended to begin dental cleanings by age 2. Ask your vet about when to have your pet’s first cleaning and how often to schedule them, because your pet may have different needs.

Your vet will assess your pet’s dental health and assign a grade:

  • Grade 1: No tartar to mild tartar/plaque and healthy gum tissue
  • Grade 2: Mild plaque with slight gingivitis
  • Grade 3: Heavy plaque with notable gingivitis
  • Grade 4: Heavy plaque, gingivitis, and possible spread of infection throughout body

What Isn’t Covered Under Pet Dental Insurance?

Some pet insurance companies will decline coverage for pre-existing dental conditions or complications caused by lack of routine dental care. Specifically, pet dental insurance may not cover cosmetic dentistry and implants, fillings, or tools for at-home dental management. This is why you should keep up with your pet’s dental hygiene and get a dental policy early on.

How to Find the Best Pet Insurance with Dental

When shopping for pet insurance policies that include dental coverage, ask the following questions. Get your vet’s input as well as you consider the following factors:

  • Do you have a small dog/cat or a larger dog? Dental coverage usually costs slightly more for dogs than for cats, mostly due to size. Larger pets require more anesthetic drugs, higher doses of medications, and longer anesthetic and cleaning times.

  • How old is your pet?

    • Policies for older pets are often more expensive due to management of health issues and supportive care. An accident/illness plan might be best for them. With this plan, you’d still pay out of pocket for routine cleanings, but your pet would have coverage for issues such as mass removals, gingival hyperplasia treatment, and injuries, including broken teeth.

    • For pets not yet 3 years old, consider a plan that covers preventive care/routine cleanings. This type of plan will help you manage the cost of routine dental care for pets that are less likely to have severe dental illness.

  • What’s your pet’s general health? Coverage for pets with pre-existing medical conditions may be more expensive, or those issues may be excluded from coverage. Many health conditions also affect your pet’s teeth and may result in higher dental bills. Apply for coverage when you first adopt your pet, to help avoid these complications.

  • Consider your pet’s habits and lifestyle. If you have a very active chewer, for example, you might consider an injury/illness plan to address broken and damaged teeth.

  • Check a prospective plan to ensure that it covers breed tendencies or breed-associated dental conditions. Boxers, for example, tend to develop gingival hyperplasia, which is an overgrowth of gum tissue that needs to be removed for dental health and cleaning.

FAQs:

How much does a dog or cat dental cleaning cost?

A routine dental cleaning for a dog or cat usually ranges from $300 to $700 without extra treatments or extractions. Larger pets will cost more due to increased anesthesia requirements and longer procedure time. Any additional dental treatments will cost extra

Is a vet exam required to enroll for pet dental insurance?

Yes, most pet insurance policies generally require an exam to determine if there are pre-existing conditions to exclude.

Does pet dental insurance have any waiting periods?

Yes, pet insurance in most forms (including dental coverage) has a waiting period. So for instance, if you get a policy with a 30-day waiting period and your pet fractures a tooth on day 10, that would not be covered.


Lori Zizka, RVT

WRITTEN BY

Lori Zizka, RVT

Veterinarian

Lori has enjoyed over 25 years of work as an RVT in the field of Veterinary Medicine. While the majority of her experience involved small...


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