Terrific teeth for horses
Friday, 18 September 2009
By Rebecca Bush, BSC EqDT, NZ Equine Dentistry
Equine Oral health has been a largely misunderstood or even ignored issue in the larger scheme of horse care.
Most horse owners will realise that a float of sharp edges is necessary but how many horse owners put this high on the list of regular priority tasks?
In the past when horses were an essential part of our livelihoods and economy, the care of the horse’s mouth was better understood. As machinery took over many of the horse’s tasks the knowledge was largely lost, this knowledge has resurfaced and further advances in Equine dentistry are constantly being made.
The most common cause of periodontal disease in both humans and horses is an imbalance of the bacteria normally residing in the mouth caused by acid conditions.
We all know sugary, acidic drinks and foods are the main culprits in humans, the major cause in the horse is in fact reduced masticatory function.
Horses’ teeth work differently than humans, the pressures involved are a lot greater and each tooth erupts and wears against opposing teeth at a similar rate throughout their lives.
Any minor rotation of a tooth, slightly imperfect alignment or differences in length of upper and lower jaw sets up a process of uneven wear which increases over time and eventually causes major problems.
This process is a double edged blade, imbalances in the mouth can cause teeth to move away from their intended position creating areas where food can get jammed and bacteria can flourish. They also change the jaw movements of the horse while eating, reducing saliva flow and therefore further encouraging the conditions for required for damaging bacterial growth.
The goal of every Equine Dentist is to maintain correct masticatory function, optimising health and performance. Regular yearly maintenance does prevent the early onset of dental disease, unfortunately every equine dentist will regularly see horses that have not had this care and do need more advanced treatment.
Until recently balancing the mouth and removal of teeth have been the only real options available to the equine dentist, but more advanced technology is on the horizon.
Removal of potentially damaging calcified build-up by the use of an ultrasonic scaler used in human dentistry and now on horses is showing great potential for improving the outlook of periodontal disease and premature tooth loss in horses.