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Find information on animal health topics, written for the veterinary professional.

Overview of Dental Development

By Sofie Muylle, DVM, PhD, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Department of Morphology, Ghent University

All domestic animals have a diphyodont dentition, ie, a deciduous and a permanent set of teeth. The morphology as well as the dental formula (see Table: Dental Formulas) of mammalian teeth, however, are variable and closely related to the animal’s alimentation.

Identification of teeth was formerly based on an anatomic system in which incisors were designated as I, canines as C, premolars as P, and molars as M. Veterinary dentists now most often use the modified Triadan system, which assigns a 3-digit number to a specific tooth. The animal’s head is divided into four quadrants, with the upper right quadrant labeled “1” and the remaining quadrants numbered in a counterclockwise direction. Numbers 1–4 are used to identify the quadrant for permanent teeth, and 5–8 are used for the temporary dentition. The second and third digits identify the specific tooth number; eg, in horses, the left lower second premolar is tooth “306” and the last molar on the right mandible is “411.”

Dental Formulas










a The canine teeth are usually regressed or absent in mares.

b Small premolars 1 (wolf teeth) are often present, especially in the upper jaw.

c The canine tooth of domestic ruminants has commonly been counted as a fourth incisor.

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