VOSD Vet

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Tooth Enamel Malformation in Dogs

Enamel Hypoplasia/Hypocalcification in Dogs

Enamel hypoplasia/hypocalcification in dogs refers to the abnormal development of the outer coating of the tooth, known as enamel, due to various physical and environmental factors. Normally, enamel appears smooth and white, but under certain conditions, such as bodily influences like the canine distemper virus in unvaccinated young puppies or prolonged fever, teeth can exhibit discoloration, pitting, or other irregularities.

Factors like injury, including the extraction of baby teeth, can also lead to distinct patterns or bands on developing teeth over a short period. Such traumas may result in insufficient enamel deposits, a condition termed hypocalcification. The reduced enamel coverage may lead to increased tooth sensitivity, exposure of dentin beneath the enamel, and occasionally, fractures in severely compromised teeth. Despite these issues, affected teeth typically retain full functionality.

Symptoms

  • Irregular tooth surface characterized by pitted enamel and discolored enamel, potentially revealing underlying dentin (with a light brown appearance).
  • Early or rapid buildup of plaque (consisting of bacteria, food debris, dead skin cells, and mucin) and calculus (a mixture of calcium phosphate, calcium carbonate, and organic matter) on the roughened tooth surface.
  • Potential development of gingivitis and/or accelerated periodontal/gum disease.

Causes

  • Injury occurring during the formation of enamel on the teeth.
  • Canine distemper virus, fever, and trauma (such as accidents or excessive force applied during deciduous/baby tooth extraction).

Diagnosis

Your veterinarian may detect discolored teeth during a routine physical examination, which typically involves a thorough oral examination. Subsequently, your veterinarian may take intraoral radiographs (X-rays) to assess the vitality of the tooth roots.

Treatment

The treatment of your dog’s teeth depends on the extent of abnormalities and the availability of equipment and materials. Your veterinarian aims to create the smoothest tooth surface possible. Before any dental procedure, your dog will receive pre-operative antibiotics and oral pain medication. Special dental instruments are used to gently remove diseased enamel while avoiding excessive removal of enamel or dentin and preventing overheating of the teeth.

If the hypocalcification has exposed the inside of the teeth, they will be sealed with a bonding agent to protect both the interior and surface of the tooth. A potent fluoride treatment may also be applied to decrease sensitivity and strengthen the enamel. This treatment is administered under medical supervision in the hospital setting.

It is not advisable to use fluoride on your dog at home without consulting a veterinarian, as improper application of fluoride can be toxic and may damage the enamel.

Living and Management

If your dog has been diagnosed with hypocalcemia, your veterinarian will recommend regular professional dental cleanings, typically once or twice a year, possibly more frequently depending on the teeth’s condition. Additionally, routine home care, including regular brushing, is essential. If you are unsure about how to brush your dog’s teeth, ask your veterinarian to demonstrate the proper techniques.

Weekly application of stannous fluoride at home is feasible, but caution is crucial. You must prevent your dog from accessing the fluoride or swallowing it, as stannous fluoride can be toxic in large amounts. Discourage excessive chewing on hard objects as well.

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