We studied the relationship between the macroscopic appearance of hypoplastic defects in the dental enamel of wild boar and domestic pigs, and microstructural enamel changes, at both the light and the scanning electron microscopic levels. Deviations from normal enamel microstructure were used to reconstruct the functional and related morphological changes of the secretory ameloblasts caused by the action of stress factors during amelogenesis. The deduced reaction pattern of the secretory ameloblasts can be grouped in a sequence of increasingly severe impairments of cell function. The reactions ranged from a slight enhancement of the periodicity of enamel matrix secretion, over a temporary reduction in the amount of secreted enamel matrix, with reduction of the distal portion of the Tomes' process, to either a temporary or a definite cessation of matrix formation. The results demonstrate that analysis of structural changes in dental enamel allows a detailed reconstruction of the reaction of secretory ameloblasts to stress events, enabling an assessment of duration and intensity of these events. Analysing the deviations from normal enamel microstructure provides a deeper insight into the cellular changes underlying the formation of hypoplastic enamel defects than can be achieved by mere inspection of tooth surface characteristics alone.