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DENTAL CARE GUIDE
More copyright information. Read the disclaimer. 1. Introduction 2.
How many teeth does the horse have? 3. Why do the horse's teeth require
regular filing? 4. How do I know if the horse has teeth problems? 5. When
do "caps" need to be removed? 6. My horse spills more feed and has a lot
of undigested oats in it's manure. What causes this? 7. How often should
the horse be checked or treated? 8. What causes swelling of the gums behind
the upper incisors? 9. What sort of feed is bad for the horse's mouth?
10. What should I expect when I ask an Equine Dentist to treat my horse?
11. Why do horses get gum disease or lose teeth? 12. How do I select a
bit? 13. Copyright Questions 14. About the Author 15. E-mail the Author
1. Introduction The horse's mouth forms a very important part of the
digestive system and also forms the vital link between the horse and it's
rider or driver. In order to be able to become more aware of what problems
occur and what treatment the horse requires, this leaflet will answer the
most commonly asked questions. You may click on the pictures to see more
2. How many teeth does the horse have? Between 36 and 42 teeth consisting
of: 12 incisors (front teeth) which are used for tearing the feed off or
grasping it; all twelve incisors erupt as milk teeth and are later replaced
by permanent incisors; 24 back teeth (molars) of which the first 12 erupt
as milk teeth. The molars are used to finely grind the feed before it is
swallowed; 4 canine teeth located between the incisors and the molars;
they are commonly called the bridle teeth; these erupt at about 5 years
of age in the male horse but are usually absent or very small in the female;
2 wolf teeth positioned just in front of the upper molars; they are very
small and are extracted by the Equine Dentist when ready because they cause
a lot of problems with the bit; occasionally these teeth can be found in
the lower jaw.
3. Why do the horse's teeth require regular filing? Unlike our teeth,
the horse's teeth continue to grow during most of its life. The upper molars
(grinding teeth) are wider than the lower molars and because feed is much
different today, this means that the teeth wear differently and the outside
edges of the upper molars and the inside edges of the lower molars get
very sharp. These sharp edges need to be correctly filed to prevent damage
to the cheeks and tongue. Additionally, where there is the common problem
of abnormal wear this can be improved by regular filing.
4. How do I know if the horse has teeth problems? By simply observing
the horse eating and by observing the horse's behaviour during riding (or
driving). Look for: head shaking, head tossing, pulling to one side, hanging,
being hard to turn, blood on the bit, spilling feed whilst eating, opening
the mouth and at the same time "screwing" the jaws, excessive saliva production,
bad appetite, bad smell from the mouth, colic, undigested feed in the manure,
gagging and many other symptoms.
5. When do "caps" need to be removed? Between 2 1/2 and 4 1/2 years
of age the horse loses 24 milk teeth or deciduous teeth, which are also
called caps". The Equine Dentist will remove them when due as the stable
fed horse will often have trouble losing these and can develop abnormal
dental wear as a result.
6. My horse's teeth have been filed but now my horse spills more feed
and has a lot of undigested oats in it's manure. What causes this? In an
effort to file the teeth, some people file too much roughness off the grinding
surfaces especially off the bottom teeth. This results in a condition called
'smooth mouth' where the horse has no ability to grind the feed properly
as it cannot be retained between the chewing surfaces. See examples of
a normal upper molar chewing surface and a lower molar chewing surface
. The raised enamel edges are clearly visible in these pictures. Excessive
filing will remove too many enamel ridges and cause feed spillage. If done
repeatedly in one area it will also cause wave mouth.
7. How often should the horse be checked or treated? Follow the Equine
Dentist's recommended period for the horse concerned, otherwise: Paddock
fed horse 4 or younger - every 6 months Paddock fed horse 5 or older -
every 12 months Stable fed horse 4 or younger - every 3-4 months Stable
fed horse 5 or older - every 6 months It is harmful to file the teeth excessively;
your Dentist will only render the necessary treatment.
8. What causes swelling of the gums behind the upper incisors? This
swelling usually occurs when a young horse is getting some new permanent
incisors, It also occurs when the horse bites or rubs with its gums on
foreign objects. In either case it is essential to seek treatment.
9. What sort of feed is bad for the horse's mouth? Wild barleygrass
seeds in the feed must be avoided at all times. These seeds can do quite
a lot of damage to areas under the tongue and lips, as well as beside the
upper molars. It is most important to avoid these grass seeds both in dry
feed and in the paddock. Crushed oats has a furry coating underneath the
husk and these "hairs" can cause ulcerations. Whole oats does not present
this problem. It should not be necessary to crack or bruise oats as proper
dental treatment will normally eliminate the problem of undigested oats
in the manure.
10. What should I expect when I ask an Equine Dentist to treat my horse?
- Professional handling of the horse. - Thorough examination of the horse's
mouth; to investigate the symptoms you have observed and routinely look
for gumdisease, injuries, irregular wear and other abnormal conditions.
- Professional treatment with hygienic stainless steel equipment designed
for the best results. - Assessing the effect of the bit used and advice
which bit suits your horse. - To follow up patients by giving free advice
to clients who ring or write with questions; this allows persistent problems
with the behaviour or condition of your horse to be resolved.
11. Why do horses get gum disease and why do they sometimes lose their
teeth, especially when they get older? One of the most common causes is
the packing of feed between the teeth. A bad bite can cause such packing
of feed which results in irritation and often disease of the gums. It is
often followed by disease around the root of the tooth causing it to become
loose. The horse will typically be prone to colic. Shortening of the roots,
decay and tartar build-up are contributing factors to periodontal disease.
Front teeth (incisors) often have feed lodged between them and this is
worse if these teeth are not aligned properly.
12. How do I select a bit? Keep in mind that the area between the incisors
and the molars where the bit rests is very sensitive and the bit rests
only on two very narrow edges of the jaw. A bit should be light, smooth
and of correct width (size). It is important not to tighten the bridle
too much nor have it adjusted too loosely; the bit must fit neatly in front
of the first bottom molars. Do not to use ring bits and long levered western
bits as they will cause a whole range of other problems. Problems with
bits can often be prevented by consulting the Equine Dentist. PROPER dental
care is essential WATCH your horse for unusual behaviour. REPORT any relevant
symptoms to your Dentist. ASK any questions you may have
13. Copyright questions are answered here in plain language. Copyright
14. The Author, Peter Borgdorff, has practised since 1980. Click here
for more information about the Author 15. E-mail your questions or comments
but please keep your message brief. Click here to send an E-mail to the
Australian Equine Dental Practice. © Copyright Peter Borgdorff 1984-2001
® the DENTAL cross logo is a registered Trade Mark Australian Equine
Dental Practice TM Disclaimer
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