Equine Dental Abnormalities: A Basic Guide

Dental problems in the equine are fairly common in modern society.  Due to management regimes of domestication, the diet has changed considerably. Horses are now mostly used for leisure and sporting purposes and are therefore fed according to their requirements for maximum performance. As a result the horse's dentition is no longer required to continually grind down coarse wild grasses containing high silicate concentrations, as they are fed soft hay and concentrates.

Consequently their continually erupting teeth do not wear down sufficiently in relation to eruption rate, causing a number of dental abnormalities, which if not routinely checked and treated can lead to numerous problems including weight loss and decreased performance. Therefore the need for dental care by expert technicians is vital to ensure the health and well being of the horse.




Equine Dental Abnormalities: A Basic Guide

Dental problems in the equine are fairly common in modern society.  Due to management regimes of domestication, the diet has changed considerably. Horses are now mostly used for leisure and sporting purposes and are therefore fed according to their requirements for maximum performance. As a result the horse's dentition is no longer required to continually grind down coarse wild grasses containing high silicate concentrations, as they are fed soft hay and concentrates.

Consequently their continually erupting teeth do not wear down sufficiently in relation to eruption rate, causing a number of dental abnormalities, which if not routinely checked and treated can lead to numerous problems including weight loss and decreased performance. Therefore the need for dental care by expert technicians is vital to ensure the health and well being of the horse.

Correction of the abnormalities
All the above abnormalities will be identified during a thorough dental examination and a treatment plan is then constructed.  This plan will be detailed on a dental chart, which you will receive a copy of to keep as a record.  The treatment will include the gradual reduction and realignment of the abnormality with the use of manual hand rasps or motorised instruments as appropriate.  The motorised instruments used today by many dental technicians are specifically designed for use in the equine mouth and they allow for the quick reduction of enamel overgrowths.  Horse's teeth should be checked routinely every 6-9 months as a preventative measure. This ensures that the above abnormalities do not develop and therefore hinder the horse's abilities to extract the optimum nutritional value from their food and perform to their maximum potential. 


Correction of the abnormalities
All the above abnormalities will be identified during a thorough dental examination and a treatment plan is then constructed.  This plan will be detailed on a dental chart, which you will receive a copy of to keep as a record.  The treatment will include the gradual reduction and realignment of the abnormality with the use of manual hand rasps or motorised instruments as appropriate.  The motorised instruments used today by many dental technicians are specifically designed for use in the equine mouth and they allow for the quick reduction of enamel overgrowths.  Horse's teeth should be checked routinely every 6-9 months as a preventative measure. This ensures that the above abnormalities do not develop and therefore hinder the horse's abilities to extract the optimum nutritional value from their food and perform to their maximum potential. 


Kathryn Woolley
Qualified Equine Dental Technician

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Equine Dental Abnormalities: A Basic Guide

Dental problems in the equine are fairly common in modern society.  Due to management regimes of domestication, the diet has changed considerably. Horses are now mostly used for leisure and sporting purposes and are therefore fed according to their requirements for maximum performance. As a result the horse's dentition is no longer required to continually grind down coarse wild grasses containing high silicate concentrations, as they are fed soft hay and concentrates.

Consequently their continually erupting teeth do not wear down sufficiently in relation to eruption rate, causing a number of dental abnormalities, which if not routinely checked and treated can lead to numerous problems including weight loss and decreased performance. Therefore the need for dental care by expert technicians is vital to ensure the health and well being of the horse.

The traditional treatment of simply removing a few sharp edges from the horse's teeth is no longer acceptable these days with the advances made within the field of equine dentistry. Effective dentistry involves ensuring the mouth is correctly balanced and the horse is free from pain thereby allowing the horse to obtain maximum nutritional value from its food. Furthermore ensuring that the horse is comfortable when being ridden and able to perform to the best of its ability.

The many different dental abnormalities horses develop have a variety of names to describe them, you may well have heard your dental technician or vet describe them to you.

Below is a brief guide to a range of common equine dental abnormalities.

Sharp enamel points
- Sharp enamel points form on the outer edges of the upper cheek teeth and the inside edges of the lower cheek teeth, due to the upper jaw being wider than the lower jaw. As mentioned earlier the horse no longer has to fully utilise its jaw action, as the food they consume does not require as much grinding.  Consequently these sharp points occur and can lead to soft tissue damage including lacerations to the inside of the cheeks and tongue, this leads to pain and discomfort when eating and being ridden.

Ramp
- A ramp shaped overgrowth usually present on the first lower cheek tooth. This overgrowth disrupts the natural grinding movement of the jaw, it can interfere with the bit and therefore affect ridden work.

Step
- A step is where a tooth is dominant over its opposing counterpart. There are many causes including retained baby teeth or missing teeth.  The dominant tooth should be reduced so that it does not create a painful problem by impinging on soft tissue or a compromised tooth.













 

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Hook - An overgrowth that forms the shape of a hook, usually present on the first upper cheek tooth.  They form if the horse's upper teeth are further forward than the lower teeth.  They disrupts the natural grinding action of the jaw when chewing, causing a reduction in jaw movement. This can result in stiffness of the muscles and joints of the head, reducing movement at the poll when ridden as the jaw cannot move freely and relax.  Furthermore lacerations to the soft tissue opposing the overgrown tooth can occur.

Accentuated Transverse Ridges
- Horses have natural ridges on the surfaces of their cheek teeth which are used to grind down the food they eat, these ridges can become prominent and restrict the grinding movement of the jaw if the horse is not chewing correctly.  Indentations on the opposing teeth can occur restricting the chewing cycle.

Wave complex
- An uneven wave like formation of the cheek teeth, there are many causes including retained baby teeth.  A wave can restrict the side to side grinding movement of the jaw causing stiffness.  This abnormality requires remedial care over time to correct.

Shear
- A shear mouth is when the surface angles of the cheek teeth which should be around 15 degrees, are angled at greater than 45 degrees.  A shear mouth disrupts the horse's side to side chewing cycle causing weight loss as food is poorly utilised. This abnormality requires remedial care over time to correct.

Diastema
- A diastema is a gap in between any two teeth.  They are common in older horses, as the teeth become narrower with age.  Food becomes packed into the gap, ferments and consequently bacteria can cause gum infection that can lead to periodontal disease. 


Correction of the abnormalities
All the above abnormalities will be identified during a thorough dental examination and a treatment plan is then constructed.  This plan will be detailed on a dental chart, which you will receive a copy of to keep as a record.  The treatment will include the gradual reduction and realignment of the abnormality with the use of manual hand rasps or motorised instruments as appropriate.  The motorised instruments used today by many dental technicians are specifically designed for use in the equine mouth and they allow for the quick reduction of enamel overgrowths.  Horse's teeth should be checked routinely every 6-9 months as a preventative measure. This ensures that the above abnormalities do not develop and therefore hinder the horse's abilities to extract the optimum nutritional value from their food and perform to their maximum potential. 


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