Enamel Defects

a cat looking up at the camera

Enamel Defects

Enamel hypoplasia/hypocalcification refers to a condition in which the outer layer of the tooth (enamel) fails to develop properly. These teeth will appear rough, pitted, and stained yellow. These pets can have sensitivity, are more prone to tartar accumulation, gum disease, and infection, and may have abnormal root development.

Enamel hypocalcification can result from trauma to an unerupted tooth or teeth. This is the most common acquired cause of an enamel defect. While this defect may originate from external trauma, it is often associated with extraction of deciduous teeth where the developing adult tooth bud is traumatized.

Enamel hypoplasia may result from a decreased amount of enamel matrix applied to teeth during development. In these cases, nearly all teeth, and all surfaces, are involved. Oftentimes, with enamel hypoplasia, the roots of these teeth may be abnormally shaped.

A severe systemic infection (canine distemper virus, parvovirus, or a systemic fever) or nutritional condition may also result in improper enamel production.

a cat sitting on a table

These teeth should be thoroughly evaluated with advanced imaging, including dental x-rays. If the root structures are normal and the tooth/teeth appear vital, the exposed dentin should be gently cleaned free of plaque and bacteria and a composite restoration placed and/or a titanium crown may be indicated in some cases.

Enamel hypoplasia/hypocalcification is not simply a “cosmetic” issue. The exposed dentin (the areas that stain yellow and brown) can lead to bacteria entering through the small exposed dentin tubules and infecting the pulp tissue, which is the living part of the tooth. If this happens, the tooth will die and extraction vs. root canal therapy will be recommended as treatment options.