Horse Problems Australia,
Post Office Box 89,
Surrey Downs, SA. 5126.
(61) 0882515250

HORSE DENTISTRY

BY

John O'Leary
Horseman
2000


So much depends upon the condition of the teeth of the horse. I probably doesn't matter if it is a wild horse but when we put a bit in their mouth and attempt to control them by pulling on it, you surely must see the importance of the condition of the teeth and general mouth condition.

I rank the proper attention to the teeth of a horse above worming. Obviously both are highly important but think about how unfair it is to be pulling the sore mouth of a horse around with a bit and still be expecting it to perform for us?

When a horse eats, it's jaws move in a circular movement and always the same direction. As a result of this, they sharpen up the outside perimeter of the top teeth and the inside of the bottom teeth. The top teeth grow spurs and these lacerate the inside of the cheeks of the horse. The lower teeth can lacerate the tongue, cause ulcers and other problem conditions.

There are all manner of other problems that can show up inside the mouth of a horse. Teeth that grow sideways, wolf teeth that can contribute to soreness, a tooth that is longer than others so that the horse can not consume the required amount of food needed for good condition, over shot or under shot jaws whereby the bite does not meet and in the young horse, intermittent caps that often require removal from emerging new teeth.

Unfortunately, over 75% of all horses that I meet have teeth that require attention. Apart from physically checking the inside of the mouth, there are other signs that can suggest teeth problems with the horse. These are:

  • Horse dropping food out of it's mouth whilst eating

  • Horse appearing to yawn with it's head held on an angle

  • Increased resistance with the bridle or bad ridden behaviour

  • Loss of condition

  • Bad mouth door

To eliminate any possible problems, one must call a Horse Dentist of a Veterinary Surgeon. Both should be qualified. I have to say that the Equine Dentist does a better job of teeth than do Veterinary Surgeons'. Lot's of farrier have learnt a bit about horse dentistry but are generally not as good as the proper Dentist.

These experts will rasp/float the teeth, removing sharp edges and fixing any other problems that may be evident at the time of examination. The equine dentist generally carries a number of other tools for working on problem teeth where Vet's generally don't.

In my opinion, unless the dentist fully opens the mouth of a horse by using a contraption called a 'gag', and investigates fully with the aid of a torch, they are simply not doing the job good enough. Unless one does this, all manner of problems can be missed.

Electric tooth rasps have appeared on the market and I have seen certain Vet's use them. I don't like them and few horses will accept them. I have also had to personally re-educate horses that have become impossible to bridle due to their use.

Now there are the new age Dentists' using dremil tools and charging exorbitant prices for their services. I do not know enough about this matter but I note that they drug horses which would be illegal as they should not be either possessing S4 drugs or dispensing them to horses. The chances of death or litigation is always there.

DRUGGING THE HORSE

I do not believe in drugs when it comes to control mechanisms for doing work on a horse. I have seen horses that have been drugged to the eyeballs, almost kill Vet's and not have their teeth seen to anyway. I have seen the same horses have their teeth treated with no drugs and no twitch. Drugs can and do bring out the bad side of horses and I am always worried about the effect it is having on the horse for the next time. Inho, to use drugs is to loose a valuable training opportunity. At any rate, there is nothing that properly used restraints can't achieve when faced with the resistant horse.

BREAKING IN

When a horse is sent to be broken in/started, please make sure you have it's teeth seen to prior. A Trainer cannot possibly expect the best out of your horse if it has a sore mouth. Besides, that soreness is going to guarantee a worse mouth than would have been possible. It may also cause other behavioural problems including bucking and these could become a learned habit. All due to a sore mouth.

HOW OLD AND WHEN?

The teeth of your horses should be first checked at foaling. Then you will know if everything is ok for the future. After that, they should be checked at least six monthly up to 4 years of age and then a minimum of once a year after that.

Here are some photo's of a horse that the Vet had done every 6 months and people had been using tie downs on.

Click on the photo's to enlarge them


Bruising due to the fighting due to the pain. The first tooth having grown too long and had worn the corresponding top one in half and the spurs causing the puss along the inside of the cheeks.

Dennis O'Leary (Equine Dentist) carefully inspecting the inside the mouth using a 'Gag' to keep the mouth open and a torch.

Wolf Teeth removed from one of my recent breakers

Another breaker
Tooth growing into top gum

I do hope this small over view will help you look after your loved one.

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