Pet dental insurance explained

Written by Mandy Sleight / December 12, 2022
Reviewed by Jennifer Lobb
Fact checked by Heidi Gollub

Key points

  • Comprehensive pet insurance plans typically cover treatment for dental accidents and illnesses.
  • Routine dental care is usually only covered by wellness plans, which can often be added to your pet insurance plan.
  • Aesthetic, cosmetic, endodontic and orthodontic dental services are not generally covered by pet insurance or wellness plans.
  • Pet owners may consider options other than pet insurance to pay for pet dental care, such as a dedicated savings fund, or financing options like CareCredit.

The cost of pet dental care can be expensive, especially if your pet has an accident or illness that affects its teeth.

Sedation, X-rays, antibiotics, medication and other costs associated with pet dental care can quickly add up. A pet insurance policy is one option to help lower your out-of-pocket expenses after your pet has an accident or illness.

While you can’t buy pet dental insurance as a stand-alone policy, most of the best pet insurance companies include dental insurance in their accident and illness plans. Having the right pet dental coverage in place can help offset the cost if your pet has an oral health emergency or illness. 

Inside this article

  1. What does pet dental insurance cover?
  2. What isn’t covered by pet dental insurance?
  3. Which pet insurance covers dental procedures?
  4. Is pet dental insurance worth it?
  5. Common dental illnesses and injuries in dogs and cats
  6. How much does dog or cat teeth cleaning cost?
  7. How to find affordable pet dental care
  8. Pet dental insurance FAQ

What does pet dental insurance cover?

Pet insurance typically covers your dog or cat’s dental accidents or illnesses, depending on the plan you choose. An accident-only plan will provide coverage for dental accidents, but not illnesses. If you buy a comprehensive pet insurance plan, it will typically cover both dental accidents and illnesses.

Accident and illness pet insurance plans often cover:

  • Crowns

  • Damaged teeth

  • Deciduous (baby) and permanent tooth extractions

  • Dental malocclusion

  • Dentigerous cysts

  • Dentistry anesthesia

  • Gingivitis 

  • Gum disease

  • Root canals

  • Stomatitis

The type of dental procedures covered will ultimately depend on the pet insurance company and the plan you choose. For instance, AKC covers dental accidents, but not illnesses. Lemonade only covers dental illnesses if you purchase add-on coverage. Always read your policy thoroughly and ask your insurer any questions you have about coverage.

What isn’t covered by pet dental insurance?

Most pet insurance policies won’t cover pre-existing conditions, dental or otherwise, that occurred prior to the policy's effective date or coverage waiting period. Aesthetic, cosmetic, endodontic or orthodontic dental services, like caps, fillings, implants or planing are also not covered, according to Scott Taylor, President of Spot Pet Insurance.

What about your annual visit to the vet or a teeth cleaning? A standard pet insurance policy won’t include those types of costs either, unless you buy a wellness plan. 

“Dental illnesses in your dog or cat could expand into major health and behavior challenges,” warns Taylor of Spot Pet Insurance. Regular teeth cleanings can help prevent dental illness.

A pet wellness plan covers routine preventive care, which often includes teeth cleanings, vaccinations, wellness exams and flea and tick medications.

You may be able to add a wellness plan to your pet insurance or buy a standalone wellness plan if you don’t want coverage for dental illness or injury.

Which pet insurance covers dental procedures?

Most pet insurance companies cover care for dental accidents and illnesses. The coverage limit and reimbursement amount can vary by company and insurance plan.

If you’re looking for a pet insurance plan that includes dental coverage for accidents and illnesses, consider one of these pet insurance companies:

  • Embrace

  • Fetch

  • Figo

  • Healthy Paws

  • MetLife

  • Nationwide 

  • Pets Best

  • Pumpkin

  • Spot Pet Insurance

  • Trupanion

Is pet dental insurance worth it?

Getting pet insurance with dental coverage may be worth the cost, especially since periodontal disease is one of the most common diseases in both cats and dogs. 

The average pet insurance claim for periodontal disease in dogs is $1,942, based on claims to C&F Insurance Agency between 2017 and 2020. And a study by the Journal of Veterinary Dentistry found that by age 2, 70% of cats and 80% of dogs have some degree of periodontal disease.

A standard pet insurance policy with dental coverage can also help you pay for accidents that may occur, such as a broken tooth caused by a rigorous game of fetch or a hard bite on a bone.

Common dental illnesses and injuries in dogs and cats

“The most common dental issues in dogs are periodontal (gum) disease and tooth fractures,” says Dr. Richard Walther, DVM, Veterinary Advisor at Pawlicy Advisor. “In cats, the most common issues are stomatitis and tooth resorption.”

Gingivitis is another common issue seen in pets, advises Sarah Wallace, Vice President of Telehealth at Galaxy Vets. She recommends talking with your dog’s veterinarian to determine the best hard bones and toys to avoid tooth fractures.

Your pet’s breed may also predispose them to dental issues. For example, brachycephalic and toy dog breeds can have unerupted teeth, says Dr. Paola Cuevas, veterinarian and behaviorist at Hepper.com. The deciduous teeth may need to be removed to allow the unerupted teeth to come down. If not, the closely packed teeth will retain food particles and tartar.

How much does dog or cat teeth cleaning cost?

Drs. Cuevas and Walther estimate the cost of a dog’s teeth cleaning between $500 and $1,000. For cats, a teeth cleaning could cost anywhere from $100 to $400.

That doesn’t include related costs, Walther warns. You may also need to pay for X-rays, anesthesia, antibiotics, pain medications or extractions. “It’s not uncommon for dental cleanings to add up to between $1,000 and $3,000 for the complete bill of services.”

How to find affordable pet dental care

Buying pet insurance is one way to get affordable pet dental care. Although routine cleanings aren’t covered unless you have a wellness plan, pet insurance with dental coverage can help offset the cost of dental accidents and illnesses.

There are other ways you can improve the health of your pet’s teeth and make the cost of dental care more manageable.

Preventative dental care

One of the best ways to prevent dental disease in your pet is daily brushing. Although it’s not always feasible, Dr. Walther recommends brushing your pet’s teeth at least three times per week. Using an enzymatic toothpaste is ideal, as it can break down bacteria and prevent tartar from forming, says Dr. Cuevas. 

Wallace also advises asking your vet about proper toothbrush training and technique. “It will be a new and possibly scary experience at first until you get them used to it, so slow but consistent training is essential.”

Dental chews approved by the Veterinary Oral Health Council, or nutritional additives that have been proven to break down plaque with digestive enzymes, can also help to prevent dental disease, says Walther. Cuevas recommends working with your vet to find the right food, as diet can also impact dental health.

Both veterinarians agree that at least once yearly professional dental cleanings are essential. They can remove bacterial build-up below the gum line, scale tartar and identify damaged teeth or root decay with X-rays.

Learn more: How to save on pet care costs

Financing options

Although pet insurance is one way to afford dental care for your pet, it’s not the only option. 

Some veterinarians offer financing options, including:

  • CareCredit

  • Scratchpay

  • VetBilling

If you use one of these options, you may have to pay interest, which will increase the cost of your pet’s dental care. Financing companies like CareCredit offer promotional periods with no interest for up to two years, depending on the amount financed. But if you don’t pay your CareCredit balance before the promotional period ends, you’ll be charged interest from the original purchase date.

For underserved communities, Wallace recommends AlignCare, though it’s only available for emergency cases. This resource is available through the Program for Pet Health Equity. You can check for other community-based programs that may be available in your area.

Create a savings account

There’s also the option of creating a savings account dedicated to your pet’s care. Even with pet insurance, you are still responsible for deductibles and coinsurance percentages. Having funds set aside can make checking out at the vet’s office easier.

Pet dental insurance FAQ

Is dental insurance for dogs worth it?

With 80% of dogs showing signs of periodontal disease by the age of 2, it may be worth buying dental insurance for your dog. Untreated dental disease could cause other health problems, increasing your vet bills over your dog’s lifetime. Comparing the out-of-pocket cost of veterinary care to the savings with pet insurance may help you determine if dental insurance for dogs is worth it.

Learn more: Is pet insurance worth it? 

How often should a dog get a dental treat?
What pet insurance has the best dental coverage?

About the Authors

Mandy Sleight

Mandy Sleight

Mandy is an insurance writer who has been creating online content since 2018. Before becoming a full-time freelance writer, Mandy spent 15 years working as an insurance agent. Her work has been published in Bankrate, MoneyGeek, The Insurance Bulletin, U.S. News and more.

Full bio
Jennifer Lobb

Jennifer Lobb

Jennifer is an experienced insurance and personal finance writer. For nearly a decade, she’s helped consumers make educated decisions about the products that protect their finances, families and homes. 

Prior to joining Sound Dollar, Jennifer served as the deputy editor of insurance at Forbes Advisor and was an insurance staff writer and editor at U.S. News.  She also spent several years covering finance and insurance for various financial media sites, including LendingTree and Investopedia.

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Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub

Heidi Gollub is the lead editor of insurance. She was previously the assistant managing editor over insurance for U.S. News & World Report.

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