We provide the horses with advanced dental procedures using a full mouth speculum and hand tools. We perform performance floats and bite alignments as necessary. A horse should have his teeth done once a year by a qualified dental technician.
THE EFFECT OF DENTISTRY ON TRAINING
Sending your two year old off to the trainer? This is an excellent time to check for wolf teeth that will interfere with a snaffle training bit. The young horse is often in greater need of dentistry than a six year old. Because a young horse is shedding caps, he is losing perhaps an upper tooth first and then the bottom tooth that still has the cap sitting on top of it will wear off the surface of the upper tooth. This wearing of the upper tooth by the “retained” cap on the lower tooth will start a phenonem called “wave mouth” which entails having the teeth on one side of the mouth long and the other side short. This uneven wear will affect the horse his entire life. The pain and discomfort of the points against the cheek and tongue will cause a general discomfort that makes it hard for the horse to focus on you and the pressure of the bit.
Have a horse that is not turning well in one direction? It is possible that he has a point or a small hook on one of his teeth, that is bothering him when he turns that direction. Horses need their teeth floated once a year. When you look at a horse’s teeth more than 12 months after he has been floated, you see very little evidence of the float. A horse’s teeth continually erupt from the gumline thru out the horses life. A young horse has a really long tooth up in the sinus cavity and down in the gums on the lower mandible. An older horse has erupted more tooth out, and the leftover tooth part is shorter.
Rear limb lameness can be due to the teeth. The TMJ affects the temporal bone, and the wings of the ilium are affected from the temporal bone, potentially being able to cause an uneven pelvis with a “short” leg and a “long leg”. A small malocculusin on the table surface can cause major problems. If the teeth can’t slide, th ey will affect the horses ability to go into flexion an d extension at the poll.
YOUR HORSE NEEDS TO HAVE HIS TEETH FLOATED ONCE A YEAR
When horses ran wild they foraged most of the day, biting off grasses with their incisors and chewing them with their molars. This created an even wear on all of the teeth. Now our horses are confined and are fed a concentrated ration. Their hay is cut by machines and they do not have to use their incisors to cut it before chewing it up. This creates a situation where the molars wear down before the incisors do. The length of the incisors eventually keeps the molars from completely coming together to masticate the feed. When the feed is not properly masticated it is swallowed without being broken down and pre-digested, so the horse does not get as much nutrition out of his food. These larger boluses of food being swallowed without being properly masticated make the horse more prone to colic. Horses in the wild with poor dentition do not live as long or reproduce as well, so nature selects for good teeth. Now that the horse is domesticated this natural selection no longer takes place.
A horse is born with baby teeth that are already in place. Underneath these baby teeth are permanent teeth that are almost three inches long. These teeth are located in the sinuses of the horse and erupt at a rate of one quarter inch per year. The baby teeth are shed a few at a time as the horse matures. These baby teeth are also called caps. The caps come off the opposing teeth at approximately the same time. If these caps come off at different times instead of all at once, it creates uneven wear on the dental surfaces that can then create an imbalance in the mouth. This imbalance can interrupt the normal chewing motion of the horse’s jaw resulting in larger portions of feed being swallowed without first being properly masticated and prepared for digestion. This sets up a situation for uneven dental wear eventually resulting in a step or wave mouth. The horse is again more prone to colic, and can wear out the tooth that is opposite the one that is too long. Yearlings and two-year olds with teeth erupting and caps being lost need to have their teeth checked annually by a veterinarian. Many horse owners believe that only older horses can have dental problems, but these young horses are having big changes in their dental surfaces that need to be monitored. If their mouth is balanced while they are young, future problems in dentition can be prevented. Uneven table surfaces also put pressure on the horses TMJ, or temporal mandibular joint. This can cause jaw pain, and referred pain up to the occiput which can then travel up the neck. The Geriatric horse’s teeth are short with shallow roots. The major portion of their tooth has already erupted and has been worn down short from use. Sometimes these teeth become loose and food gets underneath them. This sets up an area of infection under the loose tooth that needs to be treated. Sometimes the affected tooth needs to be pulled. Therefore, a horse needs to have an annual dental check up from the time he is a yearling throughout his life.
We do a lot of Osteopathy at my clinic. A horse cannot receive a proper osteopathic adjustment if his teeth are out of balance. Osteopathy addresses the “whole horse” and improper balance in the mouth can throw the entire horse out of alignment. During an Osteopathic exam, we see horse’s with feet that are not straight, horses with front or hind limb lameness, and horses that cannot flex at the pole. All of these problems can often be resolved by addressing the teeth.