Australian Equine Dental PracticeTM
© Peter Borgdorff 1984-2012
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the Place to Start

Updated 15 January 2012

About the photo album
The album shows pictures which have been taken from dental treatment records to give you an impression of what dental ailments are prevalent in the horse. The information with the pictures has been put in plain language and is only a summary.

Abnormal wear of the incisors

The cause of the irregular wear is not known.  Possibly it was due to injury judging by the scar tissue in the root area.  The horse also was a crib biter which caused the dark wear marks on the central upper incisors.  These dark marks are cement and some discoloured dentine.

Incisors The photos left and right
show how two upper
incisors overlap several
bottom incisors.



After shortening the two extended teeth by cutting them with a water-cooled diamond cutting
disc, the horse is again able to aplly a proper side-to-side action to enabe proper grinding of feed.
In the past, cutting of any teeth was done progressively by removing thin sections at a time to ensure avoidance of pulp exposure.  This method has now been replaced by the abrasion reduction by disc method where the length of the tooth is reduced even more gradually.
The amount of tooth material able to be reduced varies depending on the age of the horse and in more advanced age, the pulp canal is no longer 'alive' and the pulp canal presents itself as a hollow chamber which does not connect to any nutrient supply.


Extended Molars
As the horses' teeth continue to erupt during most of its lifetime, the teeth need to be worn down by opposing teeth to maintain their correct levels.  If they are not, it is common for a horse to develop extensions on these teeth.  These extensions are commonly referred to as points or hooks.  The case below describes the occurrence of points at the front of the first upper molars, termed 'rostral hooks'

Ext Molar R
The photos left and right show that the erupted parts ('crowns') of the first upper molars are 30 mm long instead of the normal 10 mm length.
Ext Molar L

The extended parts had not been worn down as there were no opposing teeth present.  This had caused serious erosion of the opposing gums and consequently the horse was in much pain.  It is interesting to note that this aged horse was very temperamental prior to treatment but became very friendly a month after treatment.  The treatment consisted of the substantial reduction in length of the 'crowns' with a water cooled diamond burr.

Foreign Bodies

It is not common for horses to take larger foreign bodies into their mouth as horses are very fussy about what they eat.  Occasionally, horses that have to browse for feed because they have been put on a diet or lack grazing pasture and may put the wrong things into their mouth.

Stick Across Palate
This horse managed to wedge a short piece of branch between the upper molars. It is likely that it had been there for several months as the horses eating behaviour had changed dramatically at that time according to the owner.  Fortunately the presence of the stick had not affected the horse's appetite or condition. The stick was successfully removed by carefully cutting it in half and extracting it.

Absent and displaced incisors
-age unknown gelding

Exactly what caused the injury to this horses mouth is not known.  It is likely to have happened around 5-7 years of age and caused the loss of 2 lower incisors.  Other teeth have grown to different lengths and in different directions due to mismatching.

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In the top left of the picture it is clear that two incisors are pointing outwards.  Treatment to reduce these incisors greatly improved side-to-side movement of the jaws.

Disease surrounding the teeth (periodontitis)
- 22 year old stallion case 87

This horse suffered severe colic due to the inability to chew its feed properly and was found to have developed extensive disease around molar teeth as a direct result of the impaction of feed between teeth.
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The above picture was taken just after the horse suffered colic showing muscle wasting of the flanks and neck.
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The impacted feed that was removed and the 2 permanent molars that were extracted as part of the treatment. 
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The above picture was also taken just before treatment. Note the wasting of the buttock area. 
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Left and right pictures taken 7 weeks later show great overall improvement such as weight gain and restoration of the muscle tone
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Scaling on the canines
-12 year old gelding case 37

Although not a serious condition, the build-up of scaling can be a concern as it affects the health of the gums below.  The gums under this scaling and around the canine have become inflamed and swollen, gingivitis was the result.  It is rare that this causes tooth loss.

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This canine (bridle tooth) has a thick coating of calcium and other minerals causing the tooth to appear 10 times bigger than its real size.

-2 year old filly and 1 year old gelding case 34

In horses which have a shortened lower jaw, both the molar (back teeth) and incisor teeth (front teeth) do not match .  As the teeth continue to grow and wear, this overlap can have severe consequences for the horse.  It is important to realize some of the teeth are not worn down evenly.
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This horse had the first upper temporary back tooth extracted and it is held in its original position alongside the head.  You can see how long the front (right lower) part of the tooth is because it is not worn down by another matching tooth.  Note the overlap of the front teeth in this 2 year old filly. 

In this yearling the overlap due to the parrotmouth condition is evident. Early and subsequent treatment improves the alignment to some extent and prevents serious molar extension.

Extreme wave mouth/step mouth
-aged mare case 963

Chewing feed would have been terribly painful for this horse.  The mouth shows gross neglect by the owner in not seeking proper dental treatment years earlier.  This horse had suffered considerable weight loss, was over 25 years old, required extensive treatment including several extractions.  It was considered that this horse had suffered enough.  Cases such as these are, sadly, very common as people wait until the last minute to seek professional care.
Pointer a shows how one tooth is eroded to the level of the root. The tooth below it has lost all the enamel ridges.
Pointer b shows how opposing teeth are severely eroding the gums after first wearing away all of the tooth crown.
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Pointer c shows an area which had feed lodged. There is moderate gingivitis between these teeth.
Pointer d shows another area where feed had been lodged and the resulting gingivitis and gum erosion.

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Another view of area c> showing the gap between the teeth where the feed lodges. Sharp teeth are also evident.
Step mouth is evident.  In this case the length of the teeth varies suddenly in many areas.
Gums have receded as a result of gingivitis caused by feed
lodging between the teeth.

Packing feed in the cheeks
-15 year old gelding

A common area where feed gets lodged is alongside the upper second cheek teeth (3rd premolars).  Wild barley grass seeds sometimes form part of the problem.  The packing of feed is made worse when the teeth are sharp and the horse has difficulty dislodging the feed with the tongue.  If it persists it will lead to periodontal disease in the area.  Disease around the third upper premolar causes it to be the most frequently extracted tooth of all permanent molars.

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This may look funny, but it is no laughing matter for most horses.  This horse had gotten into a bad habit but fortunately had not developed any gumdisease as a result.

Stepmouth/periodontal disease
-12 year old gelding case 48

This horse had 2 upper molars which had a relatively small extended 'notch' across them which caused feed to packed between opposing lower molar areas.  Gingivitis developed into a disease which affected the sockets of the 4 molars alongside where the feed was packed.  These 4 teeth were removed but all other teeth were normal.
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The horse was 'ribby'and looked listless.

A 'sunken' area along the spine is evident.

The 4 lower molars which were removed.

Shearbite of the incisors
-cases 798 and 856

For want of a better term, I have called this condition shearbite of the incisors as it is similar to molar shear bite Click to view shear molar bite.  The incisors, unlike the molars, do not perform a grinding function but shearbite (or shearmouth) can severely affect side-to-side movement of the incisors.  The condition can be accompanied by molar shearbite but is often due to the front part of the upper or lower jaw being twisted.
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Moderate incisor shearbite

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Severe incisor shearbite 

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