When it comes to maintaining a pet’s health, pet parents may think about the importance of consistent grooming, updating vaccinations, and annual check-ups. 

But just like humans, cats and dogs also have to maintain tooth and gum health to prevent dental problems that can cause diseases later in life. Many pet owners may not even realize the importance of dental care, which means they might not look for dental disease coverage in their pet insurance plan

Unfortunately for pet owners, it’s rare for insurance companies to cover conditions related to dental health. Many providers, like Healthy Paws, Figo, and AKC, will only reimburse policyholders for tooth extractions after a physical accident. That means pet parents will have to pay for routine cleanings and treatments for dental diseases out of pocket. 

Regular dental cleanings for your pet might not seem like a costly treatment, but since most dental procedures require anesthesia, they can range from $500 to $1,000 depending on the teeth’s quality. That estimate excludes the cost of potential cavity fillings, extractions, and root canals.

Luckily, pet insurance providers that offer dental disease coverage will make sure to clearly mention it as a benefit. Finding insurance coverage that includes dental can potentially save thousands of dollars at the vet or dental specialist. The best insurance plan for you and your pet should provide peace of mind when it comes to nose-to-tail care, and that includes your pet’s teeth

Common Dental Diseases 

When it comes to pet dentistry, pets experience more than just bad breath. Pet parents may not even realize that buying their pet its own little toothbrush and toothpaste can save them thousands of dollars in the future. Unfortunately, experts believe that over 80 percent of pets develop some gum disease variation by the time they’re three years old. Common conditions include:

Plaque

Pets develop plaque buildup along their gums from food and other debris, just like humans. Pet parents can remove plaque with consistent brushing or certain dental chew toys, but plaque will turn into tartar if left untreated. Tartar buildup can lead to other dental problems, especially if it develops under the gumline. Pets with tartar and plaque buildup require professional teeth cleanings. These can cost anywhere from $500 to over $1,000 without insurance, depending on the teeth’s status. It also requires anesthesia, which can cause adverse reactions.

Infected teeth

When tartar buildup goes untreated, pets can develop infections around the gums and teeth. Normally, when a cat or dog gets sick, their body sends white blood cells to the infection site to help fight the disease. But when a pet’s body is trying to fight dental infections, these white blood cells can create painful abscesses in the gums. These abscesses usually make it difficult for pets to eat or groom themselves. 

Tartar buildup can also cause infections in the roots of teeth. Older cats or cats with a history of dental injuries are at a higher risk for infections within the teeth. Tooth-root abscesses are incredibly painful and incurable. Root canals or tooth removal are usually the only options in most cases. Depending on the number of teeth affected, these operations can cost between $1,500 and $6,000 without insurance.

Periodontal disease

Periodontal disease is one of the most common dental illnesses faced by dogs and cats. It refers to an infection that happens in the spaces created between the gums and teeth. Typically, the gums should fully wrap around a tooth, but tartar buildup can cause pockets under the gums. 

If a vet can catch periodontal disease early on, treatments can lead to a full recovery and even reattach the gum tissue to the teeth. The later stages of gum disease occur when bone loss begins. At that point, vets can only treat it with experimental treatments or tooth extraction. Periodontal disease can cause debilitating harm to a pet, and leaving it untreated can even cause heart, kidney, and liver disease. Depending on the disease stage, pet parents will likely have to pay around $1,500 to treat the very worst of periodontal disease.

Gingivitis 

Gingivitis is another common dental disease and occurs when the gums become infected and painful. It is the clinical name for the early stages of periodontal disease when the spaces between the gums and teeth become infected. Gingivitis can be very painful and cause a pet to avoid eating. Treating gingivitis out of pocket can cost between $300 and $1,400. 

Pet Insurance Companies with Dental Coverage

When it comes to finding the best pet health insurance, pet parents should look for plans that guarantee coverage for all future health problems. Unfortunately, many insurance agencies exclude coverage for a pet’s dental health. Many pet insurance policies will cover vet fees only for dental injuries or reconstructions but not for dental diseases. The following providers include dental injury and illness coverage in their policies:

Petplan

Petplan is an excellent option for pet owners looking for comprehensive insurance coverage. It includes dental disease and injuries in its accident and illness plans. Petplan also offers multiple benefits to policyholders, including special breeder programs, various discounts, and coverage for boarding, theft, and vacation cancellations due to pet illness. Petplan will also reinstate coverage for “cured” pre-existing conditions

Embrace

Embrace pet insurance is another provider that includes dental disease and injury coverage. Unfortunately, Embrace does have a $1,000 annual maximum for dental care. That means Embrace will not pay any vet fee over $1,000, and this might not help as much as other companies. Still, it has multiple great benefits that may outweigh the price cap. Embrace will reinstate “cured” pre-existing conditions and offers an accident-only plan, vanishing deductibles, and multi-pet discounts.

Pets Best

Pets Best offers dental disease and injury coverage without restrictions, along with accident and injury coverage. Pets Best only has two payout options: a $5,000 limit or an unlimited payout. They also offer an accident-only plan, reinstate “cured” pre-existing conditions, and have multi-pet discounts. Policyholders can also take advantage of a 24/7 vet hotline.

ASPCA

ASPCA has dental coverage in its accident and illness policies. Unfortunately, it does not base its reimbursements on the actual veterinary invoice like other providers do. ASPCA bases all of its refunds on the geographical average, which means if your pet goes to a more expensive vet, you may be paying more out of pocket. ASPCA does have many benefits, including an accident-only coverage option, the ability to reinstate “cured” pre-existing conditions, and multi-pet discounts.

PetFirst

PetFirst is a perfect option for pet parents who want full accident and illness coverage, while also keeping the monthly price low. It covers dental disease treatment and dental injuries. PetFirst has multiple discounts available and has expansive coverage options. Still, PetFirst doesn’t offer coverage for diseases from parasites they deem preventable, like Lyme disease. It also won’t cover anything related to anal gland expressions.

Trupanion

Trupanion is a little bit more expensive compared to competitors but still offers comprehensive accident and illness coverage. Trupanion covers dental disease and injuries without restrictions. It doesn’t have any payout limits and maintains a 90 percent reimbursement rate for all pets, which guarantees veterinary accessibility. It also offers an assistance package for pet owners, which helps with liability coverage, theft, and boarding fees.

Nationwide

Nationwide is currently the only pet insurance provider to offer plans for exotic pets. It offers a variety of plans, which include dental disease and injury coverage. Nationwide is pretty cheap compared to other providers and provides a 24/7 vet helpline. Unfortunately, Nationwide seems to raise prices as a pet ages, which can be difficult for pet owners.

Things to Consider Before Buying Pet Insurance

Pet parents looking for dental coverage should keep in mind that the pre-existing condition exclusion still applies to dental treatments. 

There aren’t any pet insurance providers that offer coverage for pre-existing conditions. That means any pet with a history of dental disease would not qualify for coverage on future treatments. Pets with a history of tooth or gum problems would benefit from using discount programs like Pet Assure, which take a percentage off all vet bills. Pet Assure is one of the few programs that includes pre-existing conditions. Unfortunately, policyholders have to stay within the Pet Assure veterinary network. 

Traditional insurance policies do not cover routine dental cleanings but do treat tooth extraction or dental disease. That means it may be beneficial to invest in a pet wellness add-on plan to help cover cleanings. Companies like Figo, Wagmo, and AKC include dental cleaning coverage, which can cost over $1,000 without insurance. 

Wellness plans are a type of pet insurance that handles preventive and routine care, rather than accidents or illnesses. Wellness plans reimburse pet parents for regular dental care, annual vaccinations, or routine blood work but not for hip dysplasia or emergency surgeries. 

Updated September 22, 2020

Samantha Vargas is a freelance writer for Insurify. She has a background in comparative English literature and film and has produced a variety of journalistic content for the University at Buffalo's independent student newspaper, The Spectrum. She currently works in Buffalo, NY while finishing her master's degree. She spends her free time baking and working with animal welfare groups.