Horses have hypsodont dentition which mean their teeth have very long roots which erupt continually throughout their lives, an adaptation required because they wear their teeth down through continual grazing.
Their teeth have a different structure to human teeth, they are composed of an irregularly formed laminate of different tissues (dentin, cementum and enamel). These tissues wear at varying rates, ensuring the surface of the teeth is irregular and rough, which helps to increase the efficiency of grinding feed materials.
The natural position of their teeth, and the fact that the domesticated horse often spends less time eating long fibre forage than their wild ancestors, means they often develop overgrowths which can prevent them chewing normally and cause ulceration of the tongue and cheeks.
Consequently, regular dentistry is essential for all horses and ponies. Teeth should be checked every 12 months, and younger horses (less than 6 years old) and older horses (more than 18 years old) or those with known dental abnormalities should be checked and rasped more frequently to keep their mouths healthy.
A full oral examination with a speculum (gag) is required to see any problems with a horse’s teeth. The teeth are assessed for sharp edges, ulcers, diastemas (gaps between their teeth), fractured teeth, retained caps (baby teeth) or caries (rotting teeth). We are able to sedate horses for the dental examination which can make visualisation of the teeth and treatment much easier as the head is still, and the horse’s tongue is less active.
Most horses can be treated at your yard, but we are also happy to have horses come to the surgery to use the stocks for dental treatment, which can make the process less stressful for some horses. Generally, horses requiring dental X-rays need to be in the stocks to minimise the radiation risk to the handler. Horses brought to the surgery do not incur a visit charge.
We have recently invested in expanding our dental kit so we now have a diastema burr that attaches to our existing motorised rasping equipment, a dynamic aqua flusher, and a greater range of extraction forceps, further increasing the range of dental treatments we are able to carry out in house. We also are able to perform dentistry on our routine area visit days to reduce the cost of your call-out.
Please contact us at the surgery if you would like to discuss dental care for your horse or organise a visit.