23 Jul 2012

In the last few years, it is my opinion, that one particular aspect of routine horse care has been developed and improved upon, practiced more thoroughly and professionally than almost any other. That field of equine medicine being routine dental care.  This day and time sees more thorough oral exams being performed more frequently with more accurate diagnoses than ever before and they are followed up with more curative procedures than ever before.

Though routine preventative care is the norm for most horses, occasionally a rotten, fractured, or otherwise unsalvageable tooth will present and necessitate extraction. In our most recent photo shoot, at Flat River Veterinary Hospital, this is the procedure being performed.

When a tooth needs to be extracted, it may have to be driven out of the socket through an opening in the overlying sinus. When this method is used it provides the surgeon the opportunity to lavage and cleanse the sinus of the effects of the concomitant sinusitis that often accompanies a “bad “tooth. At other times a tooth may be extracted intra-orally, eliminating the necessity for surgery, but this is not always possible.

People often ask if yearly or, at least, regularly performed dental exams with possible floating are actually necessary, citing “what about the horses in the wild that don’t get any care?” Well the often overlooked answer is that many of those horses will die a slow and sometimes painful death, often of starvation, due to bad dentition; a fact proven by the examination of their sculls with the teeth intact. There are a number of horses I examine who never need correction or maintenance. There is also the other, larger percentage, who in time, without human intervention, would suffer the fate of their wild brethren. It is at least, therefore, worth a look.

As a horse owner, remember to stay aware and watch for weird chewing movements, feed or excessive saliva falling from your horses the mouth, a recent change in comfort while bridled, swelling or enlargements around sinuses, and perhaps most telling of all, very bad, unpleasant odors coming from the mouth. Any of these symptoms should prompt you to schedule an oral exam by your veterinarian.

Today, horses are feeling better, performing better and certainly, for many, even living longer lives due to more diligent dental care.

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