Dental and Temporomandibular Joint Pathology of the American Black Bear (Ursus americanus)

E. J. Clark, S. R. Chesnutt, J. N. Winer, Philip H Kass, Frank J Verstraete

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6 Scopus citations


Museum specimens (maxillae and/or mandibles) from 371 American black bears ( Ursus americanus) acquired between 1889 and 2006 were examined macroscopically according to predefined criteria, and 348 were included in this study. Of the 348 specimens, 126 (36.2%) were from male animals, 106 (30.5%) were from female animals and 116 (33.3%) were from animals of unknown sex. Specimen ages ranged from young adult ( n = 63, 18.1%) to adult ( n = 285, 81.9%), with juveniles excluded from the study. The number of teeth available for examination was 12,019 (82.2%); 7.0% of teeth were absent artefactually, 0.4% were deemed absent due to acquired tooth loss and 9.7% were absent congenitally. In 43 specimens (12.3%), 82 teeth (0.68%) were small vestigial structures with crowns that were flush with the level of surrounding alveolar bone. The remaining teeth (99.3%) were of normal morphology. Only three supernumerary teeth and three instances of enamel hypoplasia were encountered. Persistent deciduous teeth or teeth with an aberrant number of roots were not encountered in any of the specimens. Approximately one-third of the teeth examined (4,543, 37.8%) displayed attrition/abrasion, affecting nearly all of the specimens ( n = 338, 97.1%). Incisor and molar teeth accounted for 52.5% and 34.3% of the affected teeth, respectively, with significantly more adults affected than young adults. Dental fractures were noted in 63 bears, affecting 18.1% of specimens and 1.0% of the total number of present teeth. The canine teeth were most often fractured, with adults having significantly more complicated crown fractures of these teeth than young adults. There were 11 specimens (3.2%) that displayed periapical lesions, affecting 12 (0.1%) dental alveoli. There were 179 specimens (51.4%) displaying bony changes indicative of periodontitis, affecting 816 (6.8%) dental alveoli. The proportion of adult bears affected by periodontitis (57.9%) was significantly greater than that of young adults (22.2%). Exactly half of the specimens ( n = 174) possessed lesions consistent with mild temporomandibular joint osteoarthritis. The occurrence and severity of the dental pathology encountered in this study may play an important role in the morbidity and mortality of the American black bear.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Comparative Pathology
StateAccepted/In press - Sep 13 2016


  • American black bear
  • Dental pathology
  • Temporomandibular joint pathology
  • Ursus americanus

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • veterinary(all)


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