Friday, March 23, 2007

Regular Dental Care For Your Horse

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Regular Dental Care For Your Horse By J. Foley

Regular dental care is essential for healthy teeth and gums, to promote normal chewing and
good digestion, and acceptance of the bit and rein contact when ridden.
A horse’s mouth contains two main types of teeth – the incisors (cutting teeth) at the front and
the molars (grinding teeth) at the back. Both types of teeth are important for normal food
intake and proper digestion. Teeth gradually erupt from the jaw, in response to wear,
throughout the animal’s life. Wear is often uneven, leading to sharp edges and hooks
developing on the molars (typically on the outside edge in the upper jaw and the inside edge
in the lower jaw). Additionally, hooks at the back of the mouth can prevent the normal chewing
movement of the jaw, which makes eating difficult.
Sharp edges and hooks can cut into the tongue and cheeks, causing considerable discomfort.
Rasping or filing of these protrusions forms an essential part of healthcare. This can be
carried out by a veterinary surgeon or a British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA)
approved dental technician. Broken, spilt or decaying teeth may require removal, which must
be done by, or under the direction of, a veterinary surgeon.

Identifying possible dental problems
Signs of possible dental problems that may also be signs of other illness are as follows.
• Lack of appetite or reluctance to eat
• Drooling saliva – or a discharge from the mouth or nose
• Sores and swellings around the mouth
• Pain or swellings in the throat and along the jaw-line
• Foul smelling breath
• Loss of body condition
Signs of a possible dental problem when eating are as follows.
• Chewing more slowly than normal or favouring one side of the mouth
• Spilling food from the mouth or deliberately dropping (quidding) balls of partially chewed food
• Sores and swellings around the mouth
• Swellings along the jaw-line or cheeks
Signs of a possible dental problem when ridden are as follows.
• Aggression or reluctance to be bridled
• Resisting the bit
• Head shaking
• Reluctance to move forward
• Rearing or bolting
Routine professional dental care
The teeth of adult horses should receive routine professional attention at least once per year,
even where no specific signs of a problem are observed.
Young horses require more frequent dental inspections, to ensure that the adult teeth come
into wear correctly, and to confirm that the milk teeth have been shed successfully.
Older horses also require more frequent dental inspections as they are more prone to dental
problems and may suffer from loose or damaged teeth, decay or infections from impacted food.

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Article Written By J. Foley