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Friday, 06 September 2019 14:08

Dental Myths Part 2

Dental Myth: Horses don't get cavities.

Horses can have a variety of problems, cavities included. Some common and not so common issues are pictured below. Many of these problems require a sedated oral examination with a speculum and odontoscope. Sometimes radiographs (x-rays) are used to look at the tooth below the gum line.


The tooth in the image above is misshapen. There is a normal tooth behind it and a cavity in the tooth in front of it. The misshapen tooth could have occurred from trauma, been present at birth, or be deformed due to abnormal growth. Radiographs were taken to look at the tooth root and showed a mass present in the root that was affecting the sinus cavity. The horse was showing no signs of illness and had presented for a routine dental prior to breeding season.


One of the common dental abnormalities seen is a hook on the first premolar of the upper teeth. The hooks are easily reduced when small. It is important to do so because the presence of a hook can affect the forward-backward motion of the upper and lower jaws relative to each other.

Mandibular Wolf tooth

Horses can break and displace teeth just like humans. This picture shows a fractured and displaced lower premolar. The front half of the tooth is missing and the pulp cavity (the dark brown spot in the center) is exposed. Exposed pulp is very uncomfortable, as it means the tooth nerve is exposed.

                          Before     After

Horses can get severe tartar, especially around the canines. Tartar is an accumulation of calcified debris and bacteria that can accumulate around and between teeth. Part of a routine examination involves evaluating around each tooth for signs of tartar and removing it if present. In these images you can see the canine tooth before and after tartar removal. After the tartar is removed the gum recession and inflammation becomes very evident. Excess tartar accumulation can be a sign of a systemic disease like Cushing's disease or lead to the rotting and loosening of teeth, which then need to be extracted.


Horse teeth erupt throughout their lifetime. The overgrowth is kept in check by the opposite tooth grinding against the wear surface. If the opposing tooth is lost or damaged, a tooth can overgrow and cause problems. The picture shows a large overgrowth of an upper molar (and a small hook on the first premolar). The tooth was so overgrown that it was causing sores in the lower part of the mouth. Also, the teeth were locked together like puzzle pieces, preventing normal chewing motion. Treatment required rasping down (reducing) the overgrown tooth in small increments to avoid opening the pulp cavity. The tooth was reduced by about ½ cm every 3 months until it was level with the other teeth. This horse required dental equilibrations every 6 months once the issue was corrected to avoid the tooth from becoming overgrown again.

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More in this category: « Dental Myths Part 1



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