Dentistry is an area that it often over looked, however it is extremely important for the health and comfort of the horse. As horses age their teeth continue to erupt. As they eat the teeth are worn down. This creates sharp edges along the pre-molars and molars, which can then injure the sensitive mucosa and tongue. These sharp points can be very painful for the horse. Common signs are dropping feed while eating, packing feed in the mouth, weight loss, behavior trouble while riding, etc. Some horses may show no signs at all while very sharp points cause them pain.
Horses can also suffer from other problems in the mouth. Painful diastemata, where food gets stuck in-between two teeth, can lead to dental disease. It is important to address the diastemata before it gets severe. Treatment ranges from simply removing the feed to corrective dentistry.
Fractures can also occur to the teeth. In some cases the tooth may be saved, however in severe cases extraction must occur. After extraction the opposing tooth must be corrected every 6-12 months.
Sharp points, diastemata, fractures, and other dental pathology are all important reasons to have a qualified veterinarian provide dental services for your horse. To diagnose and address these issues requires a proper oral exam with a speculum, light, and sedation. Without a proper oral exam diseases are frequently missed, especially in the far back of the mouth. Dental care should start at a young age so that problems can be fixed before they progress. Older horses often require more frequent dental care to address their aging dentition. Every horse should have a sedated oral exam by a qualified veterinarian at least yearly.
Dr. Lee has a special interest in dentistry. In veterinary school she completed a research project looking at peripheral caries in horses, which was recently published in the journal Equine Veterinary Education. She has spent extra time learning from experts in the field to better care for your horses, and looks forward to helping your horse with his/her dental needs.