AGEING CAMELS BY EXAMINATION OF TEETH
Camel teeth erupt and then develop to reach full size at approximately constant ages of the animal. Some minor variation does exist and the ages given in these notes are average expectations.
The most convenient teeth for ageing purposes are the incisors (front teeth), the canines and the first of the premolars. The remaining teeth are hidden by the cheeks. The camel has a narrow mouth and, if the teeth within the cheeks need to be properly examined, an oral speculum, or mouth gag, and a light source may be required. Good restraint is always necessary and, for the sake of safety and expediency, it is best to examine the teeth with the camel hooshed down. It is usual for the examination to be accompanied by vocal complaint and possibly some regurgitation.
Following full tooth development, wear commences. The rate of wear is influenced by the camel’s particular environment, which can influence the amount of abrasive material contacted during eating.
Incisor teeth: are the teeth that are across the front of the mouth. Camels have six (2 centrals, 2 laterals and 2 corners) in the lower-jaw, and only two corners in the upper jaw that tend to be conical in shape. These upper incisors are less well developed, or may be absent, in adult females.
The camel’s first incisors are deciduous (also called milk, or temporary teeth) and are replaced by permanent incisors later. Deciduous incisors are smaller than permanent incisors at all stages of development and wear. Also, even when fully developed, deciduous incisors have a distinct neck towards gum level. Deciduous incisors often wear down to become small, loose stumps prior to shedding.
Canine teeth: are conically shaped teeth (also called tusks or tushes) that develop in the space between the corner incisor and the first premolar tooth in both upper and lower jaws. They are primarily fighting teeth and are usually larger in males than in females. Deciduous canines are later replaced by large, permanent canine teeth.
Premolar teeth: are the most forward of the grinding teeth set further back in the jaws and within the camel’s cheeks. Premolar teeth are all deciduous. The camel has three upper and three lower premolars, but the first (the most forward) lower one is generally not replaced by a permanent tooth, while all the others are. The upper first premolar is a cone shaped tooth (tending to be tusk-like).
Molar teeth: develop behind the premolars only as permanent teeth; they have no deciduous precursors. The camel has three upper and three lower molars on each side of the mouth.
Eruption: is when any part of a tooth has just penetrated the gum. In some instances this may be better felt than seen.
Illustration of deciduous and permanent teeth: in the accompanying diagrams deciduous teeth are left white. Permanent teeth are indicated by some shading above the gum line.
NOTE - Severe wear normally seen in camels at age 4.5 - 5 years can be confused with that seen in very old camels. In the younger mouth the worn down deciduous teeth will be seen as smaller stumps and most, if not all, will be loose. In the older camel the stumps will be larger and firm, and the older camel’s gums may be yellowish rather than pink. A golden rule is to look at the camel before looking in the mouth - if the camel looks young it probably is young.
Teeth at Nine Months
Eruption of central deciduous incisors occurs at birth to 14 days, laterals at 4 - 5 weeks and corners at 6 - 12 weeks, and, commencing with the centrals, some wear may be occurring by 6 months. Deciduous canines and upper premolars 1, 2 & 3 and lower premolars I & 2 are all obvious by 6 months. Upper deciduous corner incisors may have shed from females by 12 months.
Teeth at One and One Half Years
A full set of deciduous teeth are present by one year of age and all lower incisors are in wear. All deciduous teeth are fully functional at eighteen months. Upper and lower molar 1’s (permanent teeth) erupt between 12 and 15 months and are proud of the gums by 18 months.
Teeth at Three and One Half Years
At 2 - 2.5 years deciduous incisor teeth show progressive wear and separation. Also, all molar 1’s come into wear at 2 - 2.5 years and all molar 2’s are about to erupt.
At 3 - 3.5 years deciduous incisors are well worn and separated and some may be loosening. and all molar 2’s have erupted.
Teeth at Fifteen Years
At 4 years deciduous incisors have worn down to small irregularly shaped, loose stumps.
At 4.5 - 5 years lower deciduous premolars are shed and are usually not replaced. Permanent central incisors erupt behind the deciduous stumps (if latter still present).
At 5 - 5.5 years upper permanent premolars 2 & 3’s, and permanent lower premolar 2’s erupt. Deciduous lateral incisors are shed. Upper and lower molar 1’s and 2’s are in wear and molar 3’s about to erupt.
At 6 - 7 years upper corner permanent incisors (not found in every camel), upper and lower permanent canines and upper permanent premolars have all become apparent. Permanent central and lateral incisors are in wear, and lower permanent corner incisors erupt and develop. All upper and lower permanent premolars and molars are in wear by 7 years.
At 8 years all permanent teeth are present and in wear. Premolar 1’s, when present, are darkly stained due to plaque and scale. Canines, particularly in males, are large and powerful.
8 - 15 years sees progressive wear of the teeth at a rate related to the food consumed and its content of abrasives. Definite separation of the permanent incisors usually commences at about 15 years.