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Equine dentals

A thorough dental examination requires a good history, examination of the whole horse (particularly of the head and oral cavity) for disease and malocclusions and good record keeping. A veterinarian is the most appropriate person to perform this examination, as their knowledge of entire body systems and disease conditions are vital in dental examinations.

Are neglected overgrown teeth causing your horse pain?

Horses have evolved as prey animals and as such are programed to hide pain so they don’t get eaten. This natural response was useful to minimize the chances of being picked upon by a hungry predator however, it makes it difficult to recognize those early behavioral signs when your horse is in pain. A complete and thorough dental exam is the only way to make sure your horse is not suffering from dental disease.

Some common problems that can occur and often go untreated are:

  • Sharp enamel points that may lacerate the cheek and tongue causing painful ulcers
  • Hooks and ramps, which restrict movement of the jaw with severe cases developing large lacerations and holes in the opposing soft tissue (gums) if left untreated
  • Diastema / food pockets, where food gets caught, rotting leading to inflamed and retracted gums
  • Erupted or retained wolf teeth that are loose or fractured below the gum line when removal was attempted
  • Retained deciduous teeth that can interfere with permanent teeth emergence
  • Wave mouth and other imbalances, causing over wear of the opposing tooth, leading to development of diastema and other changes
  • Excessive transverse ridges, restricting normal mastication


Sedation, is it necessary?

We often sedate horses for equine dentals, why is this? Sedation allows a thorough examination to be performed every time, not just when the horse prefers. It is also recommended for the safety of the owner, vet and horse. Visualisation of many small intraoral structures is next to impossible in the un-sedated horse. Normal practice in veterinary equine dentistry internationally dictates that these structures are evaluated. Sedation is also used to reduce the stress and anxiety your horse might otherwise experience during the examination and treatment. Many horses internalise stress, they may seem calm on the outside showing little signs of discomfort but on the inside, there is a lot going on. No one likes going to the dentist, including your horse.

Which is better; hand tools or power tools?

There is much debate about this amongst horse owners. Both techniques have their pros and cons but the most important aspect is who is using these tools, their level of training and knowledge. We have both options available, but prefer power tools to do the bulk of the work. Power tools have some important advantages: 1) they are much quicker, so that the horse doesn’t have to open its mouth for any longer than necessary, 2) they allow each tooth to be individually treated and very particular areas of the tooth can be worked on in isolation, 3) the teeth in the back of the mouth can be treated without unintentionally bumping into the jaw bone and disrupting the soft tissues of the mouth.

Do power tools case tooth damage? 

Power instruments can cause damage to the tooth in untrained hands. All our equine vets have had the required education on how to safely and effectively use these power tools to ensure the wellbeing of the horse while acquiring optimal results. Used judiciously in well-trained hands, they are a time and effort saving tool that can accomplish more detailed work.

How frequently are dental examination and treatment recommended? 

We often suggest your horse gets a dental check annually to ensure problems are identified and treated early. Some younger horses and those with less than favourable alignment require six monthly check ups.