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Dental pathology in conventionally fed and pasture managed dairy cattle
  1. A. N Fadden, BS1,
  2. K. P. Poulsen, DVM PhD, DACVIM2,
  3. J. Vanegas, DVM, MPVM1,
  4. J. Mecham, DVM1,
  5. R. Bildfell, DVM, MS, DACVP3 and
  6. S. M. Stieger-Vanegas, DVM PhD, DECVDI1
  1. 1Departments of Clinical Sciences, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
  2. 2Wisconsin Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and Department of Medical Sciences, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of Wisconsin, Madison, WI 53706, USA
  3. 3Biomedical Sciences, College of Veterinary Medicine, Oregon State University, Corvallis, OR 97331, USA
  1. Correspondence toE-mail for correspondence: keith.poulsen{at}


Healthy teeth are important in the first stages of digestion for dairy cattle, yet little is known about bovine dental disease. This study aimed to investigate dental pathology of dairy cattle in two parts. First dairy cattle cadaver heads (n=11) were examined at the time of culling. Second, the authors performed oral exams in cattle fed a total mixed ration (TMR) (n=200) and pasture-based (n=71) grazing cattle. Cadaver heads were imaged using radiography and computed tomography before gross dissection to study dental anatomy and pathology. The most prevalent dental abnormalities were excessive transverse ridging of the occlusal surface, the presence of diastemas and third molar dental overgrowths (M3DO) in cadaver heads. Average thickness of subocclusal dentine ranged from 3.5 mm to 5.8 mm in cheek teeth but was >10 mm in maxillary teeth with M3DO. Radiographic findings were compared with oral examinations in live cattle. Prevalence of M3DO upon oral examination was 19 per cent and 28 per cent in herds of cattle fed a TMR diet and 0 per cent in a herd of grazing cattle. Dental abnormalities are prevalent in dairy cattle but due to thin subocclusal dentine in the cheek teeth, established equine dental treatment methodology is not appropriate for bovine cheek teeth with the exception of those that have developed M3DO.

  • Dentistry
  • Dairy cattle
  • X-ray techniques
  • Computed tomography (CT)
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