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Wednesday, 31 July 2019 11:37

Dental Myths Part 1

Dental Myth #1: Dental exams aren't needed if my horse is eating fine and looks good.

EVERY horse needs to have an oral exam by a veterinarian at least once a year. During sedated oral exams at SVEC, our vets look at more than just the teeth. They examine the head itself and the soft tissues (gums, lips and tongue) in their mouth. They also evaluate how your horse chews. Exams should start right at birth to check for abnormalities and then at least annually for the rest of their lives. Some horses may need exams more frequently.

 Dental 1

Dental Myth #2: Only old horses need their teeth done.

All horses need their teeth checked at least yearly. Catching problems early allows them to be corrected with minimal stress to the horse or the oral tissues. Minor problems can be corrected in a single visit. Chronic, severe problems that may have worsened over years can take multiple visits to correct completely so as to avoid damaging the erupting tooth. Some signs that your horse may need an exam would be changes in responsiveness when being ridden, dropping feed, quidding, tilting their head, bit discomfort, weight loss, not eating, nasal drainage or facial swelling. Many horses show no obvious signs of dental disease and still need their teeth equilibrated!


Dental Myth #3: Horses don't need to be sedated for a float.

During the oral exam a variety of tools are needed to be able to assess all of the mouth and tooth surfaces. One of the most interesting tools that we have at SVEC is an odontoscope. The odontoscope is an oral camera on the end of a metal tube that attaches to an iPod. This special camera provides a detailed view of your horse's teeth all the way to the back of their mouth. The grinding surface and sides of the teeth can be evaluated as well. The best part is is that you can see exactly what our veterinarian is looking at. Other tools used include a speculum to hold the mouth open for the exam, a head lamp, dental picks and probes to evaluate for cavities and broken teeth, and extraction forceps. Sedation is very important to allow for a thorough and safe oral evaluation. It allows for a thorough exam of the entire mouth, less stress for your horse and improved safety for your horse and also the veterinarian and technician.

Dental Tools

Dental Myth #4: Power tools take off too much tooth.

A common question is, "Should I have a power float or a hand float done?" Hand tools are still rarely used but are much more stressful for the horse and their teeth. Hand floats rely on physically "scratching off" the sharp points similar to using steel wool to scrape the rust off metal. This results in a front to back motion that can cause stress to the head and neck joints. Power tools allow for a more precise float with less physical stress to the teeth. A powerfloat gently removes the sharp points using a circular motion which means that the back and forth pressure on the tooth is minimized. Power tools allow for precise removal of very small amounts of dentin with minimal risk to the remaining tooth, when used by trained professionals. Excess removal of tooth enamel is a risk if the practitioner is not fully educated regarding normal tooth anatomy, dental eruption, forces that affect tooth mobility, and the effects of increased temperature on dental enamel. Veterinarians are specifically trained in how to equilibrate teeth to best help the horse. In addition, power tools allow for a more efficient equilibration, reducing the time that a horse has to be sedated or have his mouth held open. Reducing these times in turns reduces the stress on the TMJ.

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