We will be celebrating dental awareness month in March, which is a great opportunity to take advantage of our dental offers. Check out our social media for interesting facts about equine teeth!
Horses are ‘flight’ animals and are very good at hiding pain. They may only show signs of mouth or tooth pain when disease is severe. The adage ‘no pain, look again’ is one that the profession regularly quotes.
As a minimum standard of care, we would recommend all horses have a full oral examination once a year, with treatment as required. We’re all grateful when we visit the dentist annually and don’t need treatment, so maybe your horse feels the same!
Horse’s teeth continually erupt throughout the horse’s lifetime, usually growing approximately 2-3 mm annually. This is countered by a continual reduction as the teeth are ground down whilst eating grass and fibrous forage.
The incisors at the front of the mouth are simple teeth and relatively problem free when compared to the cheek teeth. The most common problems we see with incisors are fractures in any age of horse or pony and Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH) which is a progressive disease of older equine incisors that is being increasingly recognised. Surprisingly, horses can thrive with no incisors at all!
Although we can only see the incisors, the cheek teeth are viewed as more important for chewing food ready for digestion. The teeth are very tightly apposed so they can act as a single chewing unit, with the upper cheek teeth wider set than the lower cheek teeth.
Although chewing grinds down the teeth as they grow, the differing jaw widths mean that the upper teeth develop sharp edges on the outside, by the cheeks, and the lower teeth develop sharp edges on the inside, by the tongue.
Common problems identified at annual examination include:
- Sharp enamel points (edges)
- Focalised overgrowths, particularly on the first and last cheek teeth
- Increased or reduced height of the teeth (commonly called overgrowths)
- Diastemata (gaps) between the teeth
- Ulceration of the cheeks or tongue
- Abnormalities of the teeth surface, including caries or open pulp horns
In order to identify these problems, the horse will need to be appropriately restrained, mouth opened using a gag and a head torch and mirror used. If there are concerns, your vet or dental technician may recommend examination with an oroscope (camera) or x-rays.
Sharp enamel points and overgrowths can be reduced. This is normally done with a motorised instrument but also can be done manually using hand rasps. Large overgrowths will require sequential visits to reduce them, as if they are reduced too aggressively, the sensitive part of the tooth may be exposed and there is a risk of future tooth root infections or tooth death.
Routine rasping can be done by an appropriately trained vet or an Equine Dental Technician (EDT). Only veterinary surgeons have the ability to use sedation and are also legally permitted to diagnose and treat diseases of the teeth and oral cavity. More advanced dental
procedures are usually undertaken by veterinary surgeons that have appropriate extra training in dentistry.
If using an EDT, we recommend using an individual who is registered with the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT). This means the EDT is part of a professional body of individuals who have been rigorously examined by British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) and the British Veterinary Dental Association and have appropriate insurance and a code of conduct. Category 2 members of the World Wide Association of Equine Dentists (WWAED) also hold a qualification recognised by BEVA.
At Ashbrook, we will sedate horses for EDTs holding these recognised qualifications.
If you’d like to discuss any aspect of your horse’s dental care, or if your horse is due their routine dental examination and treatment, please call the office on 01565723030 to chat with
one of our vets and book an appointment.