Equine Dental Care
Our understanding of equine dental care is improving all the time and dentistry techniques are improving with it. It has become clear that good dental care can reduce the incidence of several conditions in horses. Dental care is an issue which should never be overlooked.
How to Spot Equine Dental Problems
It can be hard to spot when your horse has an issue with its teeth. The horse may adjust their chewing to adapt to any pain that they are experiencing, and this can mask the problem. For this reason, there may be no obvious signs of pain even when your horse requires attention. By the time that you spot an issue, it could be too late to treat.
Do be aware that slow eating, dropping food and bad breath are all signs of trouble. It is important to get your horse’s teeth checked regularly because early intervention could make all the difference.
Bad Teeth and Poor Performance
When a horse is experiencing discomfort, it may hold his head in an unnatural position. This can result in pain in the poll, neck and back which will affect the horse’s performance.
Overgrown Teeth and Colic
Horses which have had their teeth checked regularly have been shown to be at a reduced risk of colic caused by large colon impaction. It is important to rasp your horse’s teeth but equally important not to over rasp them, as this could make it harder for your horse to eat and that may actually cause colic.
Horses’ teeth continue to grow until they are roughly 18 years of age as they have evolved to eat coarse vegetation which wears the teeth down. But your horse will probably be feeding on lush grass and soft hay and so their teeth will need rasping to keep growth in check. In addition, if your horse eats from a hay net, then this can result in abnormal wear and the formation of sharp points which can injure soft tissues in the mouth. Any points must be addressed by rasping.
Older horses will have teeth which have stopped growing and so they must be treated with great care. Any tooth material which is rasped away will not be replaced. Eventually, the teeth will be worn away to the extent that they are level with the gums. This necessitates careful management of their diet. Older horses may also develop gaps between their teeth, known as diastema. These gaps will often become impacted with food and this can result in a painful case of gingivitis.
It may be that you are advised to avoid chaff or hay to prevent food being caught in the gaps or after dental treatment. There are a number of horse feeds that can help, such as Allen & Page Fast Fibre which can be used as a hay substitute and its useful for horses with poor teeth. Of course, if you are changing your horse's diet it is best to introduce new feeds gradually if possible.
Can Horses Have Fillings?
Horses can indeed have fillings to prevent decay, fractures or infections. The teeth are usually filled with the same materials used in human dentistry.
Good dental care is vital and so you should keep an eye on your horse’s teeth and have them checked regularly by an equine dental technician. Bad teeth can be painful and will lead to a variety of health issues which are easily avoided.