Advances in Equine Dentistry – really?

October 13, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

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.

equine dentistry

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.

10 Reasons Horse Owners Avoid the Equine Dentist

May 12, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Equine Dentistry
Image by pmarkham via Flickr

Thanks to Dr. Geoff Tucker for posting a good piece on equine dentistry and trying to relieve some fears about it – EQUINE DENTISTRY – 10 REASONS WHY HORSE OWNERS AVOID IT

I think my favorite is that some owners don’t know there are teeth back there. You would think how ignorant but it is true I have had clients look in the back of their horse’s mouth when I had the speculum on and be very surprised how far back their teeth go.

Another one I like and have experience with is that some owners don’t like the dentist themselves. I have a couple very good clients that are religious about having their horses teeth examined twice a year but can not watch at all when I work on the teeth. Now I use a dremel at times (sorry Dr. Geoff) and that just makes them leave the barn completely just from the noise and the thought of what the dremel is contacting.

Having your horses teeth examined at least twice a year sometimes more often for horses under 5 years of age is necessary to keep them in good health. It also helps with bit comfort and headset.

The next time your horse gives you trouble while riding and tosses his head a little, chomps at the bit or even sets its ears back when you make contact with the bit – you need to have your dentist out to check the teeth and even better just have them checked regularly so you do not experience those issues.

BTW – the pic associated with this goes exactly with the #6 reason why owners avoid the equine dentist. (hung over literally)

Horse Dentistry: Removing a horse’s wolf teeth

February 9, 2010 by · Leave a Comment 

Many horses have very small, vestigial teeth known as wolf teeth. They are very rudimentary teeth not even resembling any of the other molars about the size of a human’s baby tooth that are found just in front of the first big cheek tooth. Many veterinarians and equine dentists when they find these teeth remove them based on customary practice. However it may not be absolutely necessary to have these teeth removed. Looking at the wolf teeth and seeing how small they are, and when in their proper position, they should not interfere with the bit, it is hard to see how they can cause problems and should not need to be removed. However there are a few times when it is necessary to have them removed.

A few reasons to have them removed are when the wolf teeth are sharp causing pain on the cheeks when pressure is put on the bit. When the wolf teeth are displaced forward away from the first cheek tooth or they are so large causing them to be in the way of the bit. Some wolf teeth do become loose or diseased which may cause pain. If the wolf teeth are not causing any of these problems then it may not be necessary to have to have them removed.

To have them removed it is imperative to have a qualified equine dentist or veterinarian remove them. Although it is usually a simple procedure there are some complications that can arise especially in the process of removing them. The palatine artery is nearby and a slip can create a very messy problem with very severe bleeding, using the proper tools in the hands of an experienced person can prevent this mishap.

So if a horse has wolf teeth it does not automatically mean they need to be removed. They will need to be removed if they are positioned too far forward or in the lower jaw instead of the upper jaw interfering with the bit. If they are so large that they interfere with the bit or if they move or damaged in some other way they should be removed by a qualified professional. Otherwise it just is not necessary to remove them.

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