About 10 years ago advancements in equine dentistry started to occur and have revolutionized the way we perform dental procedures in horses. No longer is a quick feel of the first cheek teeth and float sufficient for the knowledgeable owner. Nor is this the best for the health of the horse. With the advent of safer sedative/anesthetic drugs, carbide blades for handwork and powerful rotary grinding equipment, a horse’s dental procedures can and should be much more thorough for proper health.
At Equine Medical Service, we strive to perform quality dental care for all of our patients. We have the experience and knowledge to handle most any dental problem that can occur in a horse. Our approach is to do a thorough exam of the entire mouth. To perform the exam we place a mouth speculum on the horse to safely feel and look at both upper and lower arcades of teeth. For the safety of the horse, handler, and veterinarian, the horse is given a mild sedative or tranquilizer before the speculum is placed on the horse. Knowing the condition of the horses, mouth and teeth we can then implement the best plan to correct the dental abnormalities found on examination.
Typically, most horses require some minor removal of sharp enamel points on both arcades This work can be accomplished with our hand tools with the carbide blades. Some more extreme abnormalities, like rostral and caudal hooks, wave mouths, and step mouths, require our rotary grinder to address these needs. The correct use of any instrumentation by the operator is essential to prevent damage to the horse’s cheek tissue, and teeth, especially with power tools. That is why we use hand tools more often than power dental equipment. As advancements in the quality, comfort and safety of power equipment are developed, we will continually evaluate the use of these tools as a part of our routine dental procedures.
Elective procedures can be done with the primary care of the premolars and molars. For performance horses, we can place “bit seats” on the upper and lower 1st cheek teeth. This involves grinding down the front and sides of those teeth to provide more comfort for the horse that carries a bit. This is not an actual place that the bit rides in, but provides the horse with smooth surfaces on the teeth so that when the bit displaces soft tissue, the soft tissue is not abraded or cut by sharp teeth. An- other elective procedure is to trim down canine teeth in male horses. The purpose of these teeth is for fighting and they serve no other function. They can be any where in the interdental space between the incisors and premolars. These teeth can grow tall and sharp and can cause discomfort when hit with a bit, when bridling or unbridling, and can cut the hands and fingers of someone placing their hands in the mouth. These teeth are reduced to below the level of the incisors.
One other procedure that we commonly perform is to remove wolf teeth. Wolf teeth are the remnants of the 1st premolar and are usually found on the upper jaw, although they can also be found on the lower jaw. These teeth serve no purpose for the horse. The premolars and molars are used for grinding of the food and the wolf teeth are shaped much like canine teeth, hence the name “wolf teeth.” Since they are typically found in the upper jaw just in front of the 1st “real” cheek tooth, they can cause pain when a horse is first bitted up. These teeth usually have shallow roots and are simply elevated from the surrounding gum line and removed and require no further treatment.
Rest assured that when we, at Equine Medical Service, perform dentistry on your horses’ teeth, you are receiving the best in equine dentistry available in this area.