28 Oct 2010

Take Care of Your Horse’s Smile and a game for you!!


Here are some facts about the cutting edge of equine dentistry. You may think horse dentistry is a new fad, but there is nothing new under the sun. When our livelihoods depended on equines, horse dentistry was a lively profession for practitioners in every county. Well-known in Europe in the fourteenth century, the observation of horse's teeth goes back at least two thousand years. For the past couple of centuries, Europeans have had a particularly strong interest in horse's teeth. The tools which were being made by the end of the nineteenth century would still not be out of place in a modern horse dentist's set of tools – although diamond technology has brought advances in cutting, burring and grinding tools, which uncannily grind tooth enamel while leaving softer tissues such as the inside of cheeks unscathed on contact. There are currently about 25 horse dentistry tool manufacturers in the U.S.

So, what does an equine dentist do, and which horses could benefit from their practices? An equine dentist basically equilibrates a horse's teeth in a number of ways. Horses in the natural state do not usually require dentistry, the same as they do not require a furrier. Free-roaming horses eat a lot of hard plants with a high woody content, as well as grasses with silicates. These are abrasive substances, which wear down the incisors as the horse tears at the grass stalks. Hay-fed horses do not need to use their incisors in the same way, with the result that these do not get worn down and eventually get so long that the horse cannot close its mouth sufficiently to use the molars to grind its food.

All horses could benefit from the services of an equine dentist, although only a small proportion receives them. Even if your vet checks your horse’s teeth every half year, the chances are very high that there are points on the outside of the upper premolars and molars which are causing either constant discomfort or digging ulcerations in the cheeks. A thorough oral examination requires the use of a full-mouth speculum and a mild sedative or relaxant.

The most discerning owners tend to call in a specialized dentist as standard procedure, because it can improve a horse's performance dramatically and prolong active life for up to a decade. Dental work always improves the horse's digestion, and better food uptake means better performance. Over and above that, a surprising proportion of horses suffer from tooth maladies which affect the way they take the bit. A tendency to resist turning in a particular direction is, for example, a strong indication that the horse has some kind of problem on that side of its mouth. If turning is uncomfortable, the horse is going to act up. It may be simply a question of getting the bit to sit more comfortably to cause an immediate change in the behavior of the horse.

Many horses have persistent problems which cause uneven eating, distortions of facial muscle development and a build-up of pressure, which in turn can lead to constant headaches. When the horse first experiences relief from this, typically during the first session of dental treatment, under mild sedation, the effects can be dramatic. Have you ever seen a horse smile?

Friction can arise between dental practitioners and standard vets, who have very different approaches to dental problems. Typically, a vet is called in to file down teeth when they become long, but tends to do so in a very uniform manner, which does not take into account the natural variations in the horse's own way of grinding, or the angles of the teeth necessary for comfortable eating. Incorrect filing can radically change the angle of impact and effectively prevent the horse from eating.

There is unfortunately no accredited certification program for equine dentistry through veterinary organizations. Ironically, only veterinary practitioners are legally empowered to practice equine dentistry, although many are not capable of the most basic form of it. Vets sometimes act in conjunction with a highly specialized and trained lay-dentist. The equine dentists themselves are a rare breed. Because of the problems they are up against in terms of training programs and chances to practice freely, they tend to be fierce animal lovers with a high commitment to their chosen profession and an almost evangelical passion to spread the word. There is a worldwide network of practitioners, who are in constant consultation for problem-solving and sharing new techniques and findings. A visit from and equine dentist can be as rewarding an experience for the owner as it is for the horse.

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