Practical knowledge of veterinary dental anatomy and physiology is essential to the veterinarian and veterinary technician
involved in providing quality oral care to their patients. Quality surgical skills are only attainable with a thorough understanding
of these concepts.
The following discussion provides a basic guide to the veterinary oral anatomy and physiology commonly encountered in practice.
During tooth formation, enamel is derived embryologically from the ameloblasts that lay down matrix that eventually mineralizes
into a series of microscopic rods. These rods are arranged in a perpendicular fashion to the dentino-enamel junction and the
crown of the tooth. This arrangement becomes important because tooth fractures and defects may leave rods unsupported, predisposing
to further fracture and enamel compromise. Any disruption of the production of enamel during the developmental stage can result
in defects on the tooth such as enamel hypocalcification (Photo 1). As enamel surrounds the crown of the tooth, cementum covers
Photo 1: Enamel hypocalcification.
Dentin is formed from the odontoblast. These cells have processes that run the entire width of the dentin from the pulp to
the DEJ within the tubules of dentin that they themselves create. Acute enamel damage can lead to exposure of dentin with
resultant death of the odontoblasts creating a direct route of migration for oral microbes to infect the pulp (Photo 2). Restorative
treatment is needed to seal the tubules to prevent microbial insult (Photo 3). Chronic enamel wear that extends into dentin
may result in gradual repair with the deposition of tertiary or reparative dentin (Photo 4). Many of these chronic lesions
need no treatment. It should be mentioned that the tubules within dentin become larger as they get closer to the pulp, therefore
the deeper the lesion into dentin, the more likely that pulp changes will ensue.
Photo 2: Dentin exposure can lead to death of odontoblasts.
Photo 3: Above tooth restored.
Photo 4: Chronic enamel wear.
Pulp consists of primarily blood vessels, nerves, fibroblasts, odontoblasts and undifferentiated mesenchymal cells. Pulp can
be compromised from trauma or systemic infection (Photo 5).
Photo 5: Pulp escaping a fracture.
Photo 6: Possible pulp necrosis.
Pulp necrosis results from irreparable pulp insult from infection and/or trauma. Characteristic changes associated with pulp
necrosis radiographically are an enlarged pulp chamber compared to the fellow tooth on the contralateral mandible or maxilla
and/or an area of increased lucency surrounding the root apex (Photo 6).