Fall is in the air and a perfect time to evaluate your horses oral care. Many advances have been made in equine health, horses today live well into their twenties and thirties, making it even more important to provide their teeth with regular preventive care.
If we recognize small problems at an early age and correct them seldom do they become the large problems seen in many of today’s adult horses.
Current research is showing that equine teeth that function normally and have normal grinding patterns actually wear more slowly and therefore last longer. This means that the better a horse’s teeth are maintained, the longer his teeth will remain active for grinding long-stemmed roughage, the staple of the equine diet. All too often I am having to pull hay from the diet and switch to an all pelleted form of feed to offset dental problems that should have been addressed years ago.
Who should do your horses dental?
You have many options today as to who you choose. I believe when it comes to your horses health your veterinarian whether its myself or another veterinarian should be your best advocate for proper dental care. Yes, I realize we may cost more than the “Equine dentist” but in this particular case you are getting more than just a teeth float. Your veterinarian can provide valuable insight in your horses nutritional needs, especially as they transition through different phases in life.
What to expect
Sedation to keep the horse quiet and still.
Appropriate head support system (suspension, head stand, head ring).
An initial visual examination and palpation of the oral cavity.
Full-mouth speculum to enable a clear view and ability to work deep into the mouth.
Proper set of instruments that are complete and clean.
Radiology when indicated by a potential problem or before and after dental extraction.
In addition, pharmacological agents such as phenylbutazone (bute) or banamine and antibiotics may be needed as adjuncts to treatment.
The exam begins by rinsing the horse’s mouth and evaluating the volume, consistency and odor of the flushed material. Using a full-mouth speculum, the horse’s mouth is examined digitally and visually using adequate light and reflecting instruments. Further, the incisors are evaluated from the front and sides to check for evenness of wear and occlusion.
Interdental spaces are observed and palpated for unerupted canine teeth and blind wolf teeth (small vestigial premolars; see note below).
The tongue is examined for lesions such as ulcers, lacerations or scars.
The upper front premolars are palpated and examined for hooks and sharp cusps that may cause ulcers on the inside of the cheeks.
The cheeks are also examined for packing of feed or lacerations.
The lower jaw is evaluated for adequate sideward movement (lateral excursion).
The mouth is examined for evidence of any dental lesions or gum disease.
The entire oral cavity is palpated (felt) manually for any abnormalities as a supplement to the visual inspection.