Ensuring that your horse’s teeth are healthy is a vital part of their routine care. A thorough oral examination should be performed at least once a year so that problems may be detected early and to ensure that your horse is as comfortable as possible when eating and during ridden exercise. Taking advantage of our reduced fee zone visit scheme means that routine dental care remains affordable.
Both our Towcester and Onley practices offer clients an advanced dentistry service with experienced equine veterinary surgeons. This service is led by Partner Mike Sheldon who works closely with our vet, Ashley Schofield both of whom have expertise in advanved equine dentistry. As a practice we have close relationships with numerous qualified BAEDT (British Association of Equine Dental Technicians) who work in the area; often, referring cases into our clinic when more advanced dentistry is required, or where IV sedation is indicated. If you or your BAEDT would like to discuss a case, please do not hesitate to contact us.
Signs that your horse might have a dental problem
The following clinical signs may indicate that your horse has a dental issue. Call our team on 01327 811007 to speak to a vet and arrange an appointment.
- Not/difficulty eating or a reduced appetite
- Weight loss
- Quidding – this is when your horse drops partially chewed food as they are eating
- ‘Pouching’ – when feed collects in your horse’s cheeks
- Reluctance accepting the bit
- Changes in ridden behaviour: head shaking, head tilt, mouth open or irregular head carriage
- Dangerous ridden behaviour – signifying pain
- Only using one side of the mouth to chew
- Bad breath
- Discharge from one or both nostrils that has a bad odour
- Excessive salivation
The best way to avoid dental problems is to have regular, annual check-ups for your horse. This should increase to every 6 months once your horse gets older due to an increased prevalence of age related conditions.
Advanced Dental Techniques
Some of the techniques offered by our clinics are
- Tooth removals (molar, canine and incisor teeth) as well as minimally-invasive transbuccal extractions (MTE)
- Diastema widening and bridging
- Sinus surgery (including trephination, flushing and sinus flaps)
- Cavity restoration
Fractured or rotten teeth can be diagnosed following a thorough oral examination and or digital radiographs. These teeth often become problematic, and in most situations, best practice is to remove the affected teeth. Tooth extractions are performed in clinic, at either our Towcester or Onley branches where we have appropriate equipment for the procedure in hand.
To ensure that the least stress possible is incurred during extraction work, your horse will be calmy restrained and sedated in our purpose built stocks, and their head rested on a dental stand using a padded head collar. The removal will be completed under standing sedation with local anaesthetic ensuring that your horse will be comfortable and pain-free throughout the procedure. Our vets will be assisted by our experienced nursing team, enabling an efficient extraction time.
More complex tooth removals require a slightly different approach; it may be that minimally invasive trans-buccal screw extractions are indicated which can be performed at our Plum Park clinic. The affected tooth is accessed via a small cheek incision and specialist tools are used to remove the appropriate tooth. Occasionally, these cases may require a general anaesthetic but this can be discussed on a case by case basis.
Our modern X-ray equipment enables the team to take accurate diagnostic images of the teeth, mandible, maxilla and other structures, guiding the treatment plan for each patient. We also have our own portable oroscope, a device that uses a camera to visualise the teeth at the back of the mouth; this allows for a thorough dental examination so that all potential problems can be addressed by our vets.
Diastema widening and bridging
Oroscopic examination allows full visualisation of potential diastema which need treating. Diastema describe gaps between teeth that can become packed with food. As this food material decays it can lead to oral infection along the gumline causing gingivitis, periodontal disease and in some instances tooth displacement and loss. We understand that diastema can be extremely painful for the horse, which may result in inappetance and weight loss.
It is useful to understand that horses are known as hypsodont species, which means that their teeth have a long crown and continuously erupt throughout their lifetime with the teeth being ground down from eating forage. In the wild this wear occurs naturally due to the coarse nature of forage ingested. However in the domesticated, modern-day, horse fed a higher proportion of grains and cereals; teeth often are not sufficiently ground down, hence the need for regular dental checks and rasping of the teeth. Our vets always recommend keeping your horse as close to a natural diet as possible. To discuss dental issues or feeding further, call our team on 01327 811007 You may also consider booking a weight clinic with our own RVN (Registered Veterinary Nurse) and vet team.
Diastema are usually a problem experienced by the older horse and treatment of this condition can be completed under sedation. Treatment may include widening the diastema so that food does not get stuck in the narrow gap, coupled with flushing the diastema to clear any food debris. Antibiotics may be prescribed if there is evidence of oral infection. Packing the diastema is also sometimes indicated to prevent further food getting stuck in the gap, however all treatment options will be discussed on a case-by-case basis.
Using an oroscope, our vets will be able to identify potential cavities or caries (dental decay) which may need restoring before they progress into a more serious problems. Such issues are usually picked up on routine dental examinations, hence why maintaining dental care is a vital part of your horse’s wellbeing. Dental restoration can be carried out at one of our clinics. Delaying treatment may cause further problems including tooth fractures and root infections, both of which are incredibly painful and will require veterinary intervention. Cavities are restored by using a high speed, water cooled drill to remove all the unhealthy tissue and debris. The cavity is cleaned and prepared before being filled with a specialised resin material.