When you hear “dental health”, most people think of getting their dogs’ or cats’ teeth cleaned. This is an important part of dental health, however they are not the only animals that need dental care.
Horse’s have teeth that continue to erupt or grow for most of his/her life. Chewing is the body’s natural way of grinding the teeth down; however, horses often do not wear down their teeth in the correct manner. This leads to sharp tooth edges that cause ulcers on the inside of the cheeks, hooks that interfere with a bit, ramps that cut into the opposite gum line, and many other painful conditioins. Also, if teeth grow in at uneven rates, abnormalities in tooth height are likely (termed a step or wave mouth).
A full dental exam requires standing sedation to allow access to the back of the mouth. Each tooth and the surrounding gumline is felt for abnormalities. A dental generally consists of filing down the sharp points and high teeth to create a smooth chewing surface that allows the mouth to move without dental pain. This process is called “floating teeth” and is accomplished using hand and/or power floats.
Young horses are checked for presence of Wolf teeth. These rudimentary premolars can interfere with the bit and should be removed. Horses that wear a bit should not only be free of Wolf teeth, but the first normal sized premolar (technically the second premolar) is rolled to allow the bit to sit comfortably on the dental bars.
These animals teeth are “open rooted”. This means that they continue to grow. It is imporant to get regular check ups for smaller pets. An oral exam will be done during the physical. During an oral exam, the veterinarian will check for tooth overgrowth. This can go undetected for quite some time, until a problem is noticed. By that time, your pet may be in a great deal of pain. Overgrown teeth can cut into the cheek, making eating and swallowing difficult. Keeping up with regular physicals may help eliminate this common problem. If your pet’s teeth are overgrown, they can be sedated and the teeth can be filed down.