Modern Dental Care
No foot, no horse; no tooth - definitely no horse. Modern dentistry is developing at a rapid rate and all horses should benefit from the advances in the science and the understanding of equine dentistry.
For many years equine dentistry has been stuck with rasping, or extraction with very little in between. This image of dentistry as being predominantly about rasping the teeth is an outdated concept. Horse’s teeth need routine rasping but this is only a small part of what is modern equine dentistry.
‘Dentistry is the branch of medicine that is involved in the study, diagnosis, prevention, and treatment of diseases, disorders and conditions of the oral cavity, the maxillofacial area and the adjacent and associated structures, and their impact on the equine body’. (Wikipaedia – ok I changed ‘human’ for ‘equine’ but this is an excellent definition that shows how we should view equine dentistry).
Horses are expert at disguising dental problems until they become advanced, a feature of evolution and a survival tactic in the wild. Horses eating patterns adapt to cope with developing dental pain and disease and only with expert examination can these problems be identified early. This includes dental overgrowths and sharp points, cheek ulcers, incisor problems, orthodontic abnormalities and pathology such as cavities and endodontic (pulp) disease. These changes are often visible and present well in advance of serious problems developing e.g. root abscesses, but require careful examination.
Modern dentistry is composed of:
- Thorough oral and dental examination – a clinical assessment of the teeth and soft tissues,
- Controlled and careful reduction of sharp points and balancing the dental arcades (rasping, floating, equilibrating etc),
- Further investigation of any identified abnormalities e.g. cavities, abnormal spaces between teeth,
- Treatment of gross abnormalities causing clinical signs of disease e.g. extraction of diseased teeth,
- Treatment of symptomless but developing disease to prevent progression e.g. cavity restoration. Every horse should receive an annual or preferably bi-annual check-up to examine the teeth, oral cavity and associated structures, and have any treatment required. At EDC our approach for routine dentistry is:
- Thorough, clinical examination using modern dental instruments (mirror, probes etc),
- Controlled rasping and balancing of the teeth using visually guided motorised instruments,
- Advice on any follow-up diagnostics or treatments required. We are then fully equipped to perform any diagnostic, preventative or therapeutic treatments. Examples include:
- Oroscopic examination with digital image and video recording
- X-ray or CT investigations (in collaboration with B&W Equine Clinic, Breadstone and the Royal Veterinary College),
- Dental extractions by minimally invasive oral techniques
- Dental cavity restorations to prevent fractures and spread of disease (e.g. caries),
- Periodontal disease treatment,
- Root canal therapy e.g. for incisor fractures, some cheek teeth infections.