Dentistry and Dental Clinics
At Ashbrook we have provided equine dental services for many years and we recommend that all horses have a routine dental examination and appropriate treatment annually. Most competition horses benefit from 6 monthly check ups which allow minor, performance enhancing changes to be made. The examination, using a head torch and mirror, allows assessment of the teeth and the soft tissues of the mouth. It also allows us to identify any displaced teeth or gaps (diastemata) between the teeth that may require further treatment.
The cheek teeth of horses continually erupt so develop sharp edges on the outside (buccal) aspect of the upper cheek teeth and the inside (lingual) aspect of the lower cheek teeth. If these are not regularly reduced, they can become very sharp and the horse may resent being bitted and ridden or struggle to eat. In severe cases, we will also see ulceration on the inside of the cheeks where the sharp points have been rubbing. If there is ulceration, this usually heals once the sharp edges are removed. At Ashbrook, we have the capability to rasp teeth using manual rasps, or powertools. As vets, we can sedate the horse if it is required to complete the job safely and to the highest possible standard.
Some horses have a slightly abnormal mouth conformation and will be prone to overgrowths of teeth, especially of the first and last cheek teeth. These are often reduced using power tools. These reductions may need to be completed over multiple visits as removing too much tooth at one time can damage the pulp cavity which is the sensitive portion of the tooth.
Other problems we commonly identify are diastemata, caries and loose or fractured teeth. Diastemata, or gaps, are seen between the teeth and can be described as open or valvular. Valvular diastemata are often seen in younger horses and can be very painful, resulting in quidding or difficulty maintaining a consistent contact when ridden. Food accumulates in these gaps and it is very difficult to remove as the ‘valve’ effect traps the food, which ultimately starts decaying and causes infection along the gums and teeth roots. Open diastemata are often seen in older horses and do not trap the food as severely so infection at the base of the diastema is less severe and therefore less painful. Open diastamata are much easier to manage than valvular diastemata. Treatment for these diastemata includes removing the decaying food material and flushing out the cavity. Occasionally, packing or widening the diastema can help.
We increasingly recognise caries or decay in the infundibulum of upper cheek teeth. These can progress and ultimately result in fracture of the tooth. We are now able to offer restoration or filling of these defects to reduce the likelyhood of fracture and more extensive dental works. We also see caries on the edge or periphery of the teeth.
We also see fractured teeth, non-vital pulp exposures (ie the tooth may be dead and requiring extraction) and tooth root abscesses. Sometimes we will require radiographs to assess the teeth roots and plan the most appropriate treatment for your horse.
On the first Thursday of every month we will perform routine dental work at Ashbrook at a reduced price. We also offer this, together with a free visit for yards with 5 or more horses. Please note that payment at the time is mandatory.