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Dental and Temporomandibular Joint Pathology of the Walrus (Odobenus rosmarus).

  • Author(s): Winer, JN;
  • Arzi, B;
  • Leale, DM;
  • Kass, PH;
  • Verstraete, FJM
  • et al.

Maxillae and/or mandibles from 76 walruses (Odobenus rosmarus) were examined macroscopically according to predefined criteria. The museum specimens were acquired between 1932 and 2014. Forty-five specimens (59.2%) were from male animals, 29 (38.2%) from female animals and two (2.6%) from animals of unknown sex, with 58 adults (76.3%) and 18 young adults (23.7%) included in this study. The number of teeth available for examination was 830 (33.6%); 18.5% of teeth were absent artefactually, 3.3% were deemed to be absent due to acquired tooth loss and 44.5% were absent congenitally. The theoretical complete dental formula was confirmed to be I 3/3, C 1/1, P 4/3, M 2/2, while the most probable dental formula is I 1/0, C 1/1, P 3/3, M 0/0; none of the specimens in this study possessed a full complement of theoretically possible teeth. The majority of teeth were normal in morphology; only five teeth (0.6% of available teeth) were malformed. Only one tooth had an aberrant number of roots and only one supernumerary tooth was encountered. No persistent deciduous teeth were found in any of the young adult or adult specimens, nor were any specimens affected by enamel hypoplasia. The majority of teeth (85.5%) displayed attrition/abrasion. Of the adult and young adult specimens, 90.8% showed some degree of attrition/abrasion on at least one tooth. Tooth fractures were noted in eight walruses, affecting 10.5% of specimens and 1.3% of the total number of teeth, nearly three-quarters of which were maxillary canine teeth (tusks). Three specimens (3.9%), all adult males, displayed overt periapical disease. The majority (99.2%) of dental alveoli did not have bony changes indicative of periodontitis, with only five specimens (6.6%) affected by periodontitis. Lesions consistent with temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis (TMJ-OA) were found in 46 specimens (60.5%) and TMJ-OA was significantly more common in adults than young adults and males than females. Although the clinical significance of dental and TMJ pathology in the walrus remains unknown, the occurrence and severity of these lesions may play an important role in the morbidity and mortality of this species.

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