Recognizing and Treating Dental Problems in Horses

A dental check-up on horses is one of the most important check-ups that should be carried out regularly. Because a horse cannot necessarily make it clear that it has dental problems or jaw pain. This is why dental problems in horses often go undetected for a long time. This can lead to problems under the saddle or when eating food. In order to avoid this, a check of the teeth is essential and should be carried out at least once a year, more often in older horses. Find out everything about dental problems in horses in this article.


Signs of dental problems in horses

Symptoms of dental problems are not always easy to spot. Nevertheless, horses often show changed behavior - both when riding and when eating, which clearly indicate pain in the mouth. Horses with dental problems often eat more slowly or refuse to eat at all, which usually leads to weight loss.

They also salivate more, smack their lips and often spit out hay wraps . Hay wraps are cigar-shaped clumps of feed that form in the cheek pouches when the horse chews the hay and straw around with its teeth and eventually falls out of the animal's mouth. Since horses with a sore mouth cannot grind up feed properly, undigested feed particles in the faeces are another sign of dental problems. This can be unchewed cereal grains or stalks, for example. Difficulties with bridling, in which the horse refuses to use the snaffle bit, also indicate pain .


Other symptoms are:

    §  Frequent constipation colic

    §  Bleeding and/or putrid odor from mouth

    §  nasal discharge

    §  swelling of the jaw

    §  Head banging while eating and/or riding

    §  Dull fur

    §  Problems with changing coats

    §  Bad general condition

    §  Hanging out tongue


Treatment of dental problems in horses


If a horse shows one or more of the above symptoms, it should be examined urgently by a veterinarian or dentist using suitable instruments and light sources. Nowadays, this usually happens with the horse standing and sedated , directly on site in the stable. The immobilization by sedation ensures that the horse chews less, which makes the work of the treating person much easier. It also makes it easier to fix the horse's head in a head sling or on a head stand and minimizes the risk of injury from defensive movements.

The examination of the oral cavity includes both visual inspection (adspection) and palpation (palpation) of the teeth, lips, cheeks, tongue and oral mucosa . In order to have a sufficient view of the oral cavity, it must first be rinsed out. But not only the oral cavity, but also the entire head should be checked during a complete examination. Because asymmetrical muscles of the head, bone depressions and bone abrasions can indicate dental problems there.


Horse teeth grow about 2 to 5 mm per year up to the age of seven to nine years . In order to shorten teeth that are too long or to remove sharp edges and hooks, horses' teeth are rasped with different tooth rasps. Teeth rasping can also be carried out directly in the barn and is one of the routine activities of veterinarians. To ensure that the veterinarian is not disturbed at work, the horse's mouth is kept open with a jaw gate during the treatment.

More complex operations, such as the removal of a molar, incisor or canine , are treated as inpatients in the clinic. There are a variety of treatments for equine dental problems. This includes the removal of tartar and milk tooth residues as well as root treatments. Other treatments include surgical therapy for tooth and jaw fractures and diseases of the maxillary sinuses.


What types of dental problems are common?

In general, horses can suffer from a wide variety of dental problems . However, the most common are injuries to the cheek mucosa and tongue caused by sharp points and edges on the molars. In addition, horses often have tooth caps, i.e. remains of milk teeth on the fixed teeth, which have to be removed. Many horses also have hooked molars that interfere with chewing and long or sharp canines that injure lips, mucous membranes and gums when chewing


Other possible dental problems include:


    §  Missing or broken teeth, tooth debris and gaps

    §  Uneven chewing surfaces

    §  too many teeth

    §  Badly worn teeth

    §  Tooth or gum inflammation

    §  misaligned teeth

    §  overbite and pike bite

    §  Broken teeth with/without apical abscesses


Preventive measures against dental problems in horses


Horse owners can support dental health by providing their horse with appropriate nutrition and care. If horses are kept in the box , particular attention should be paid to ensuring that the feed contains a sufficient proportion of roughage . The reason for this is that the woodchip fibers contribute to the wear of the teeth and so there are no points and sharp edges. Nevertheless, too concentrated feeding with supplementary and soft food leads to fewer chewing movements, which is why the teeth wear out insufficiently or unevenly.

Horses with sufficient grazing, on the other hand, pick up enough sand and small stones from the ground when eating and the fibers of the pasture grass also contribute to the wear of the teeth. In order to prevent injuries in the mouth, a veterinarian or dental specialist should check the horse's mouth at least once a year and, if necessary, rasp the teeth into a physiological shape and length.


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