Diagnosis of periodontal disease, a frequent disorder in dogs, rests mainly upon the assessment of changes affecting the gingiva. Loss of gingival stippling, one of the early symptoms of periodontal disease in the human, could also indicate early periodontitis in the dog. The aim of this study was to determine the presence of gingival stippling in dogs, its location on alveolar processes, its association with age and inflammation, and its relation to the microstructure of the gingiva. The study concerns clinical, scanning electron and light microscopic examination of the gingiva of 48 dogs. Stippling, i.e. the granular appearance of the gingiva resembling irregularly distributed crater-like depressions of varying sizes, was present in adult but absent in young and senescent dogs. Stippling was most prominent at the level of the canine and the carnassial teeth. In contrast to the human gingiva, depressions and elevations of the stippled gingiva of the dog were not distributed uniformly. Presence of stippling indicates the presence of well developed mucosal layers and extensive interdigitation of epithelial rete pegs and papillary layer. Interaction of inelastic collagen fibres and a high hyaluronan content within papillary layer resulting in a high turgor of tissue due to the extensive water binding capacity of hyaluronic acid could also play a role in shaping of the gingival surface. The significance of gingival stippling in the diagnosis of periodontal disease in dogs is limited, as stippling occurs in healthy but also slightly inflamed attached gingiva of adult individuals.
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