What Is A Lack Of Enamel On Dogs Teeth?

What is enamel?

Enamel is the hard, outer layer of the tooth that covers and protects the underlying dentin. It is the hardest substance in the human body and plays a vital role in oral health. Enamel helps prevent cavities, protect teeth from wear and tear, and insulates teeth from temperature extremes.

According to the Cleveland Clinic, enamel is made up of hydroxyapatite crystals that provide strength and hardness. It contains no living cells and is formed before the tooth erupts from the gums. Once fully formed, enamel cannot be regenerated if damaged or lost. This makes it susceptible to erosion from acids, abrasion from brushing, and decay from bacteria.1

Enamel helps protect the sensitive dentin layer underneath. Without enamel, teeth are unprotected and rapidly wear down from use. Enamel also enables teeth to withstand biting and chewing forces. Its smooth, glossy surface facilitates eating and speaking. In addition, enamel acts as a barrier against bacteria and acids that can penetrate into the tooth’s inner layers.

Causes of enamel hypoplasia in dogs

There are several potential causes of enamel hypoplasia in dogs:

Genetic conditions

Certain breeds like Collies are predisposed to enamel hypoplasia, indicating there may be a genetic component (1). A hereditary condition called amelogenesis imperfecta results in decreased enamel matrix production during tooth development (2).

Nutritional deficiencies

Deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, and/or vitamin D during tooth development can impair enamel formation and lead to hypoplasia (1).

Systemic diseases

Systemic illnesses like distemper and parasitism in puppies can disrupt enamel production (1, 3). The “distemper teeth” appearance is classic for enamel hypoplasia.

Trauma/injury to tooth buds

Physical trauma to the tooth buds under the gums during development, typically between 3-6 months of age, can also cause enamel defects (2).

(1) https://todaysveterinarypractice.com/dentistry/disorders-of-dental-hard-tissues-in-dogs/
(2) https://www.dvm360.com/view/dental-enamel-defects-dogs
(3) https://dentalvets.co.uk/common-cases/enamel-dysplasia-in-dogs

Signs and symptoms

Some key signs and symptoms of enamel hypoplasia in dogs include:

Discoloration and wear of teeth: Teeth affected by enamel hypoplasia often appear discolored, with patches of yellow, brown, or opaque areas. The enamel may also appear pitted or flaky. Over time, the weaker enamel can wear down at a faster rate, exposing the inner tooth layers.

Increased sensitivity: The enamel protects the inner structures of the tooth. With thinner or missing enamel, dogs may show signs of mouth sensitivity or discomfort when eating or chewing.

Higher risk of decay: Weakened enamel is more prone to chipping and erosion. Bacteria can more easily penetrate the tooth surfaces, increasing the risk of painful dental cavities, infections, and tooth loss. According to this source, enamel hypoplasia is a major predisposing factor for periodontal disease in dogs.


Enamel hypoplasia is typically diagnosed during a dental examination by a veterinarian. The veterinarian will perform a thorough oral exam, looking for areas of thinning or missing enamel on the teeth. This defect is usually visually apparent upon examination. The enamel may appear yellow or brownish in color compared to normal white enamel, and the underlying dentin layer may be exposed.

Radiographs (x-rays) of the teeth may also be recommended to assess the depth and extent of enamel loss. Radiographs allow the veterinarian to see the internal tooth structure and measure enamel thickness. This helps determine the severity of enamel hypoplasia and rule out other dental issues like fractures or abscesses (Source).


Treatment for enamel hypoplasia in dogs focuses on protecting and restoring damaged enamel, managing pain and infection, and removing severely affected teeth. Common treatments include:

Sealants and bonding – Applying dental sealants or composite bonding material to the tooth surface can help protect areas where enamel is missing or damaged. These materials act as a barrier and prevent further decay or sensitivity (Source).

Tooth extractions – For teeth where the enamel damage is too severe, extraction may be necessary. This involves surgically removing affected teeth that cannot be saved or restored (Source).

Antibiotics and pain medication – Dogs with enamel hypoplasia often develop tooth infections and oral pain. Vets may prescribe antibiotics to treat infection and anti-inflammatory pain medication to relieve discomfort (Source).

Home Care

There are a few things you can do at home to help protect and maintain your dog’s teeth if they have enamel hypoplasia:

Brushing Teeth

Daily tooth brushing is important for dogs with enamel issues. Use a soft brush and dog-safe toothpaste. Brush at a 45 degree angle to the gumline. Make sure you reach the inner, outer and chewing surfaces of all teeth.

Dental Diet

Feeding a dental diet with larger kibbles can help scrape away plaque as your dog chews. Veterinary dental diets are formulated to be gentle on tooth enamel.

Regular Dental Cleanings

Professional dental cleanings allow the vet to scale away tartar, plaque and bacteria from the teeth. Cleanings are recommended at least annually for dogs with enamel hypoplasia to prevent worsening of tooth decay and infection.


Enamel hypoplasia is a permanent condition in dogs that cannot be reversed once the enamel development is complete. However, with proper treatment and prevention, dogs with enamel hypoplasia can still live long, healthy lives.

According to the American Veterinary Dental College, enamel hypoplasia leads to accelerated wear of the affected teeth. This means dogs with this condition are at a lifelong risk for fractured teeth, pulp exposure, abscesses, and tooth loss if the condition is not well-managed.1

Proper at-home care and professional teeth cleanings can help minimize dental disease. However, dogs with enamel hypoplasia tend to require more frequent dental exams and cleanings compared to healthy dogs. Early intervention for fractures or infections is key to maintaining dental health.


Proper nutrition is key to preventing enamel hypoplasia in puppies. Make sure puppies receive adequate calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D in their diet to promote proper tooth development. A complete and balanced puppy food formulated for growth is recommended. Avoid feeding homemade or raw diets in puppies unless properly balanced with the guidance of a veterinary nutritionist.

It’s also important to avoid injury to the developing adult teeth in puppies under 4 months of age. Take care not to allow puppies to chew on hard toys, bones, or other objects that could damage the immature tooth enamel. Provide only soft rubber toys for teething puppies.

Additionally, preventing canine distemper virus through vaccination can help prevent enamel hypoplasia, as this virus can disrupt tooth enamel formation.

Risk factors

Certain dog breeds are genetically predisposed to develop enamel hypoplasia, including poodles, dachshunds, and great Danes. The condition appears to have a hereditary component in these breeds, likely caused by defective enamel matrix genes.

Nutritional factors may also play a role when the permanent teeth are developing. Deficiencies in calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, vitamin A, and protein can impair proper enamel formation. Providing a complete and balanced diet supports healthy tooth development in puppies. According to one source, “Nutritional deficiencies during tooth development result in enamel hypoplasia. This occurs when the secondary teeth are developing. The permanent teeth begin forming at about 4 weeks of age and continue until about 6 months of age.” (Source)

When to see a vet

If you notice any signs of enamel hypoplasia in your dog’s teeth, it’s important to have your vet examine them. Some signs that indicate a veterinary visit is needed include:

  • Discoloration of the teeth – teeth may appear yellow, brown, or chalky white
  • Chipping or fractures in the enamel
  • Exposed dentin underneath enamel
  • Tooth sensitivity, trouble eating or mouth pain

Veterinary dental exams allow diagnosis of enamel hypoplasia and identification of any problematic teeth that need treatment. Your vet can take X-rays and perform probing of the teeth to check for defects. They may recommend extraction of severely affected teeth to prevent further dental disease.

Early veterinary and home care helps minimize damage from enamel hypoplasia. But once enamel defects form, the changes are permanent. Seeing your vet promptly when you notice dental issues provides your dog the best chance for comfortable and healthy teeth.

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