Advances in Equine Dentistry – really?
Some equine dentists would have you believe that they are really advanced in equine dentistry. There are equine dentists doing full mouth balancing, filling cavities, and even root canals. It seems legitimate, the dentist really seems to know what he is talking about, seems to be selling it quite effectively and is confident that the procedure will make your horse perform much better because of the treatment provided. My question though would be how do they know? Has research been performed to prove that these techniques actually do what the equine dentist says it is going to do? Are there other techniques that work as well if not better?
The biggest problem with equine dentistry is that although it is a very old profession and veterinarians and lay people have been working on horses teeth for as long as horses have been used by people there has been little in the way of research. None of the so called advances in equine dentistry have been proven to be any more or any less effective than any other dental procedures.
The one basic fact of equine dentistry that has been passed down and is now in the category of obvious medical knowledge is that removing sharp enamel points from the edges of a horses teeth allow the horse to be more comfortable and allows the horse to masticate more appropriately. That’s it! Nothing else has really been studied. The whole balancing of the mouth to improve comfort of the TMJ, filling cavities, and root canals has not been researched in horses – we have no idea if it really does work or not.
The problem with no research is that some dentists take it to the extreme in trying to make the theories be true. I have seen a dentist “correct” the teeth so they were “perfectly aligned and balanced” and yet the horse could not eat afterward. The horse could not chew. I have had to wait almost 2 years on one horse before I could do any filing because so much was taken off initially that the teeth although “perfectly balanced” were not touching.
At this point in time I am going to agree with Geoff Tucker, DVM in his post – Just Because It Can Be Done, Should We Do It?
Remember this in today’s world. Charlatans abound and with positive emotional stories like this person’s endorsement of root canals, we all remain subject to their damage and lies. Please remain vigilant but not closed minded. Someday a very wealthy person will fund accurate and sound scientific studies of equine dentistry but until then, most if not all studies done on this subject is unsubstantiated and wrong and not in the best interest of YOU or YOUR HORSE.
Removal of oral pain IS in your horses’ best interest and the best way to do this is routine floating from a young age. Call your equine dentist now and not when his teeth are failing. Like changing the oil in your car or flossing your own teeth, an ounce of prevention is so much better than a pound of cure.
Until there is more and better research less is more in my opinion. We need to be doing what we know for sure is best for the horse and that is to remove sharp enamel points and balance the mouth to allow for better mastication such as removing ramps and hooks. If we do more we do not know if we are helping or actually hurting the horse or not doing anything at all.
So remember if you have one of these equine dentists coming to you telling you your horse needs something extreme just ask him has any research been done? Then run don’t walk, run away and bring your horse with you.