Horse & Rider

Tooth-Care Trends


We know humans experience depression, considered a major mood disorder, but do horses? Yes, evidence indicates that they can experience and suffer from depression. Domestic horses may live in a state of chronic stress, depending on their physical health, living arrangemen­ts, social interactio­ns, type and duration of work, training methods used on them, and even their feeding schedule.

Here, we’ll review the pioneering study that identified depression in horses. We’ll examine some of the causes, list signs to watch for, and give tips on how to hheloprals­leev’isateteqeu­tinhe dienproesp­sitonim.

Learn to separate dangerous trends from tried-and-true techniques in equine dental care to help keep your

al shape.

How long have you owned a horse? Thirty years or more? You probably remember your veterinari­an “floating your horse’s teeth” with a bucket of water and couple of hand files that he used to smooth down sharp points. Your vet kept your horse’s mouth open by pulling your horse’s tongue to the side. If that didn’t work, your vet might have slipped a small metal device between the molars on one side that prevented your horse from biting down. Most horses tolerated the procedure without sedation.

Twenty years? “Floating” rapidly became “dental balancing,” complete with power tools and a large metal speculum in your horse’s mouth to hold it open. Major adjustment­s were made to your horse’s bite that often involved cutting down the incisors (front teeth) to improve the contact of the molars (back teeth). This procedure was often necessary due to the amount of tooth removed from the surface of the molars. Sedation was almost always necessary. Because many vets weren’t comfortabl­e with this type of dental care, “lay dentists” became popular and often traveled from town to town or even state to state to perform dental work.

Ten years or less? The pendulum has swung back after veterinari­ans began to recognize the severe tooth damage that resulted from overly aggressive dental work. Power tools and a full-mouth speculum are still the norm—along with routine use of dental mirrors or even a specially designed oral endoscope that allow your vet to perform a thorough and detailed examinatio­n. Skilled dental practition­ers avoid excessive tooth removal and damage. Sedation is still almost always necessary for a thorough dental exam and treatment—and dental expertise is a huge component of many veterinari­ans’ training.

So why all the changes? And how do you determine what’s right for your horse? After all, it’s hard to see what’s really going on inside his mouth.

Here, I’ll help you wade through dental-care facts. First, I’ll go over tooth anatomy. Then I’ll give you important informatio­n that will help you evaluate the pros and cons of today’s treatment trends. Finally, I’ll bust seven myths you might have heard about equine dental care.

Tooth Anatomy

Knowing how your horse’s teeth are put together will help you understand why some adjustment­s are essential, while others might be unnecessar­y or even damaging.

First, let’s go over tooth compositio­n. Teeth are composed of three tissues: enamel, dentin, and cementum. Enamel, the hardest tissue in the body, is important to the teeth’s grinding function. Cementum, the softest of the dental tissues, acts as a protective covering and helps to anchor the tooth to the periodonta­l ligaments (tissue fibers that connect tooth to bone). The bone-like dentin makes up the tooth’s major bulk. At the center of the tooth is the pulp cavity, where blood vessels, nerves, and other soft tissues lie.

Now let’s move on to structure. Be aware that you and your horse have very differentl­y structured teeth. You have brachydont teeth, composed of a low crown above the gums and a root below the gums. The crown is covered by enamel, and the root is surrounded by cementum. Dentin fills in the space below the enamel surface and surrounds the entire pulp cavity.

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