A horses teeth are designed for tough work. Each day they must reduce a large volume of raw fibrous food into a digestible mush. This first stage is vital to the horse’s digestive system.
In order to meet this challenge the teeth continue to grow throughout the horses life. When the teeth do not occlude (meet) properly –for example through uneven wear or illness –mouth and jaw joint pain may result. Such problems have implications for the general health of the horse and, when left untreated, can considerably shorten his or her lifespan and working life.
As well as these common malocclusion problems, horses may also suffer from caries, periodontitis, calculus and salivary gland inflammation. Many disease of other body systems may also manifest in the mouth -for example, liver disease, various metabolic disorders, viral and fungal infections to name but a few.
Equine dentistry is a challenge which requires a vet with special training. Dental treatment should not be confined to crude rasping –as often used to be the case. Unfortunately such treatment is still practised by unqualified ‘dentists’.
Our knowledge of equine dental treatment is constantly expanding. Thanks to his special training (Fachzusatzbezeichnung Zahnheilkunde = Cert. Animal Dentistry) and participation in international training programmes, Dr Simon can offer your horse the most up-to-date treatment at the highest level. Your horse will reward you with a long, pain-free and happy life –plus enhanced performance!
Some of the most frequently-asked questions concerning equine dentistry:
How do I know if my horse has tooth problems?
• Sudden deterioration in performance
• Head shaking
• Pulling on the bit or not accepting the bit
• Abnormal chewing action
• Altered drinking action
• Sensitivity to touch on the head
• Bad breath
• Nasal discharge
• Facial asymmetry
• Discharging sinuses on the face
• Weight loss
• Mouth ulcers
• Dull coat
• Bad mood!
• Head shyness
• Nerve paralysis
What is the procedure for dental treatment?
As always, our practice philosophy is that each step is discussed with you in advance. Most treatments can be carried out in the horse’s normal environment –in a loose box or yard.
Warm water and mains electricity are required. After a general veterinary examination and initial examination of the mouth, the patient is sedated by injection. This takes effect within a few minutes. The patient remains standing throughout the procedure and recovery.
A gag is inserted which allows the mouth to be opened without stress. Once each tooth, the gums and tongue have been carefully examined, a treatment plan will be talked through with you. We will be happy to show you any problem areas discovered during the examination. Immediate treatment can then be carried out.
Dr Simon is fully equipped with the most up-to-date dental equipment.. This includes a full range of electrical apparatus and manual instruments. In this way, each part iof each individual tooth gets the specific treatment it needs. Antiseptic mouthwash is used before, during and after the examination.
After treatment, your horse will recover best in a quiet environment.
When necessary, medicines such as vaccinations, painkillers and antibiotics are available through dr Simon from our veterinary pharmacy. Appropriate medicines are always on hand in our fully-equipped practice vehicle. Similarly, for difficult cases, a mobile x-ray unit is available.
Is sedation necessary?
Yes, a stress-relieving injection is necessary for the following reasons:
It makes possible the detailed medical examination of each tooth without having to use forceful restraint and ensures that the whole experience is pleasant for your horse.
Although treatment is not generally painful, for welfare reasons sedation is advised.
From the rider’s point of view, it is not sensible on one day to perform an uncomfortable procedure in your horse’s mouth and then on the next day to expect a ‘soft mouth’ when riding. When dentistry is peformed without sedation the trust between horse and rider may be adversely affected.
Like all leading equine dentistry specialists, in order to facilitate the best treatment and avoid unnecessary stress, we believe that sedation is essential. Modern sedatives are very well-tolerated. Each patient will have a full medical examination before sedation.
How long does treatment take?
This depends on the nature of the required treatment. An average dentistry visit lasts about 45 minutes. You should allow your horse about an hour beyond this to wake up. Most horses are ready for action after this period. Very occasionally it takes a day or two for the patient to adjust to the new feel of the mouth before riding is possible.
How often should my horse have a dental examination?
After the initial examination an annual check, with adjustments as necessary, is necessary. Young horses, up to five years old, should be checked every 6 months. Up to this age problems may occur as the deciduous teeth are lost and adult ones erupt. Horses older than 18 years should also be checked 6 monthly.
How much does dentistry cost?
Cost obviously depends on the treatment measure found to be necessary. For this reason only an estimate can be given at the outset. As vets we follow the national guidelines (Gebuehrenordnung fur Tieraerzte).
A ‘standard’ examination including general medical examination and sedation normally costs between 140-180 Euro. Subsequent annual examinations are generally less complicated and are therefore cheaper. Visit charges must also be added and these depend on how many other patients we have to visit in your area. Please contact us and don’t be shy to discuss potential costs!
How does dental health affect performance?
Alongside the seat and feet, the mouth is an important means of communication between rider and mount. A painful mouth always leads to avoidance behaviour on the horse’s part. As an official competition veterinarian Dr Simon is often presented with horses with damaged mouths and bruising of the cheeks. These are picked up by officials at examination and, in particularly bad cases, can even lead to disqualification.
How do I recognise a good horse dentist?
There are simple signs to look out for. For example, no-one should perform any corrective work in the mouth without a full examination and diagnosis.
The back cheek teeth lie approximately below the eyes. In order to palpate these teeth the practitioner should be passing just about the full length of the forearm into the mouth. This is essential in order to assess the situation before, during and after treatment.
In order to perform an examination a gag is required which holds the incisors. Other means of opening the mouth, such as gags which sit between the cheek teeth are not suitable. So much pressure can be exerted upon these by the horse that splitting of teeth can occur.
The dentist should be able to explain the intricacies of equine mastication. He or she should discuss each stage of treatment with you in detail and, in addition to a suitable gag, should possess a range of rasps and a light source. The incisors should not have been excluded from the examination and treatment plan. The examination should have been carried out under sedation in order to avoid an unpleasant experience for your horse and to allow proper treatment.
At the base of the tongue lies a delicate and sensitive network of bones –the hyoid apparatus. This is connected with the inner ear which is important for sense of balance. When the tongue is pulled strongly forward, damage may be caused to this bone system. Sequelae may include balance problems, uncontrolled hanging-out of the tongue or inability to eat properly. Use of force in this way should never be seen from a good equine dentist.
These are just a few hints. An experienced way with horses is naturally also vital.
How can I find out more about equine dentistry?
We are happy to give talks -with video films, slides and tooth specimens -when invited. Maybe we are lecturing somewhere near you soon. If you would be interested in hosting such an event at your stables or club then please don’t hesitate to contact us.
Dr. med. vet. Isabell Herold Mobil 0178-8886650
Dr. med. vet. Tilman Simon Mobil 0178-8886651
Bürg 27, 83627 Warngau 08021-507888