Equine dentistry has evolved from very rudimentary rasping of the horses molars in an often unsedated and uncooperative patient to a very sophisticated science of dental equilibration under sedation with high-tech tools and the technology for advanced procedures such as filling cavities and performing root canals. In the age of science and technology, it seems inevitable that everything once simple and inexpensive, becomes a hard-to-comprehend, expensive procedure, that few can afford. In many horses a sedated hand “float” will suffice to remove enamel points, however in some horses dental equilibration is required to enhance proper mastication and digestion, comfort and performance. At Large Animal Practice, we like to try to simplify matters while at the same time maintaining an exceptional service at a reasonable cost. Please let us know when you schedule your appointment if your horse has been losing excessive weight or their performance is just not right so that we can bring the dental speculum and power dental instruments with us to properly diagnosis and treat your horse’s dental issues.
This horse has a large “step” in one of its molars. This step is impossible to correct without a speculum and power dental instruments
We recommend that every horse have a brief oral examination twice a year. Large Animal Practice veterinarians perform brief oral examinations free of charge as part of the service of vaccinating your horses. A brief examination involves gentlyholding the horses tongue and pulling it to the side so the molars, or cheek teeth, can be visualized. This is a quick way to assess the need for a dental and/or give a estimated time when it should be done, although some horses will not tolerate this without tranquilization. This is not a thorough oral examination and just gives the veterinarian a general idea of the teeth's condition and how sharp the enamel points are. Generally speaking, most horses that are used for riding should have a dental every 1-2 years in order to maintain proper occlusion and balance of the dental arcades. If the horse is used intensely for showing and especially for certain disciplines such as dressage, the enamel points should be smoothed down every 9-12 months in order to maintain perfect comfort and balance while performing.
There are two general reasons to have a dental performed on your horse: for performance/comfort reasons and for corrective reasons. The molars, or cheek teeth, of horses are constantly being used to grind forages and grains and unlike human teeth, they wear down the surface of their teeth day by day. Since horses teeth are “in constant wear,” they tend to continually develop sharp enamel points. The bit pulls the redundant soft tissue of the cheeks backwards into those sharp enamel points and can cause discomfort during riding, especially in disciplines that require a lot of “contact” with the riders hands such as dressage. During a performance dental, the veterinarian will smooth the sharp points from the outside edge of the upper molars and the inside edge of the lower molars as well as creating a “bit seat” on the premolars that can come in direct contact with the bit. This is essentially what a performance dental entails.
Corrective dentistry implies that the veterinarian is fixing problems that have developed in the horse's oral cavity. Abnormal wear patterns are extremely common in horses mouths and often unnoticed by the horse owners until the problems are advanced and difficult to correct. Initially the veterinarian will do a thorough oral examination with the animal sedated and with an oral speculum and will evaluate range of motion of the TMJ's, molar and incisor occlusion, and any wear abnormalities that are present. Problems that are commonly seen are wavemouth, hooks or ramps, and incisor malalignments, and poor molar occlusion. These conditions can all be present in horses that appear to be in good body condition, and that eat and chew their food normally. When these conditions reach a severe enough condition to cause weight loss and difficulty masticating, the teeth are often beyond repair for the equine veterinarian.
We perform performance and corrective dentistry under sedation with the horse standing and supported in a dental halter or on a dental head stand. The patient has an oral speculum positioned in its mouth to enable the veterinarian to see each and every tooth and to work unobstructed by the horses chewing movements. During power dental procedures we are very conscientious of nerve damage from overheating and work very diligently to preserve tooth mass when possible. Equine dentistry probably receives the most positive feedback of the services we provide, mainly because the results are so obvious to the horse owners.