otter, Lontra canadensis, dental, teeth, pathology, Arkansas


River otters (Lontra canadensis) consume a variety of foods, including mussels, fishes, and crayfishes. These foods have hard body parts that cause wear of the teeth as the predator ages and incurs more damaging feeding experiences. This can lead to exposure of the pulp cavity and possible abscess and resorption of bone around the alveolus. Further, strong bites against harder parts of prey sometimes results in mechanical breakage, which can lead to pulpitis and severe pathology leading to tooth loss. We investigated the frequency of different forms of dental issues in a sample of 178 skulls of river otters collected from Arkansas. Canines and carnassial teeth, most used in capture and mastication of prey, were most severely affected. Based on post-traumatic tooth wear, it is evident that otters are able to survive severe dental disease.