Is your horse’s mouth ready for show season?

(Published in the April Horse News)

By: Emily Olson, DVM

You spent the winter keeping your horse in shape, the truck oil is changed,
the trailer is cleaned and tire pressure checked, the horses all have new shoes…
But what about your horses’ teeth? Don’t let a dental issue rear its ugly head in the
show ring! As horse owners we quickly suspect dental disease when our horse is
losing weight, not eating normally, or dropping feed. However,
dental issues can
also be implicated in performance problems such as head tossing, reluctance to
turn, bend or flex at the poll, and general soreness. This time of year is perfect to
combine your spring vaccines with a general wellness exam including a thorough
oral evaluation.

The way horses eat has changed through domestication as we have replaced
24 hour grazing with scattered meals of grain and hay. This has also changed
the way horses “wear” their teeth. As a result, horses develop sharp enamel
points, ramps, and hooks of the teeth that can often cause pain, ulceration, and
malocclusion. These sharp angles can make the normally fluid movements of
the jaw challenging. Problems with the last few molars at the back of the horse’s
mouth are most frequently associated with pain and reluctance to perform many
bending and flexing exercises. A thorough oral exam under light sedation allows the
veterinarian to visualize and access these important teeth while minimizing stress
to the equine patient. With an oral speculum, equine dental mirror, and dental
explorer the veterinarian can individually evaluate each tooth and the surrounding
gums to diagnose disease and identify current or potential problem areas. The
next step is traditional “teeth floating”, now termed dental equilibration which
involves bringing the horses teeth back into normal occlusion while eliminating
problem points and hooks. With the use of advanced power dentistry equipment it
is possible to precisely and efficiently correct the problem areas while leaving the
patient with maximal chewing surface. Advances in power floating tools, coupled
with a bright light and an experienced hand, allow access to the most significant
problem areas of the mouth in a minimally invasive manner. In more mouths with
more pathology, some patients may need more advanced diagnostics or procedures
such as radiographs or extractions.

Routine care and management of horses mouths can prevent problems down
the road including performance issues in the ring! Be sure to schedule an oral exam
for your horse at least once a year.

Dr. Emily Olson is a veterinarian at BW Furlong and Associates
focusing on equine dentistry. For questions contact Dr. Olson at the clinic at 908-

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