Yes! Your horse can get cavities just like you can…..kind of! Horse’s teeth have much the same composition as yours do and those tooth structures can decay when organisms enter the tooth through damage to the enamel surfaces. The advantage horse’s have is that their teeth are erupting continuously throughout their life….so if the caries develop slower than the rate of tooth decay, sometimes the cavities are literally worn off before they cause permanent damage to the tooth integrity. When Rich does his comprehensive dental exam on your horse, he often notes that they have “caries” and then will let you know if those caries need treated now or can be watched. Just like in humans, untreated dental caries can lead to weakening of the tooth structure, fractures of the teeth, and dental infections. Because horses chew many, many more hours of the day than we do and because their natural chewing pattern is to grind their teeth across each other (not chomp up and down like us!), having a “hole” in the center of their tooth weakens the structure a lot! Advanced Equine Dentistry regularly completes composite dental fillings to preserve those teeth and to try to prevent tooth loss. As our horses are living longer and longer life spans, saving a tooth and keeping their teeth functional longer is a great help in keeping them healthy.
Please, please Cut the Wires off of your Hay Blocks!
We frequently remind our clients that hay blocks in general are very hard on a horse’s teeth….no matter how much some might find them convenient. Horses’ dentition is not designed to “gnaw” and the act of trying to get hay off those tightly packed blocks (and tightly packed hay nets) damages their gums and their enamel…..sometimes beyond repair. But, a much more dangerous aspect of the hay blocks are the wires or strings they are bound with…..they are easily caught between and around horses teeth causing serious injuries. During this time of year, with the increase in hay use, we see horses on a weekly basis with hay block injuries. This photo is a young horse treated this recently…..the wire on his hay block caught on his cap (baby tooth) and in the process, completely fractured off his underlying permanent tooth at the gum line. His permanent tooth was completely destroyed.
But young horses aren’t the only concern and a horse doesn’t need to have caps in place to get caught; the wire and string bindings can get trapped between teeth and wrap around them, even in adults. Damage to their teeth certainly happens, but is not the only concern. Horses frequently break their jaw when caught on the wires. The bone structure at the front of their mouth is pretty thin and when a “trapped” horse fights to get free of the wire stuck there, they can fracture it straight through!
So….our goal is not to debate the use of hay blocks. We truly get the economic aspects of horse care since we own horses ourselves. Just please, please, please….cut the wires and strings off of your hay to protect your horses!
Foxtail Alert…We are Seeing Increased Numbers of Horses with Foxtail Ingestions
Advanced Equine Dentistry has examined and treated an increased number of horses with foxtail injuries to their teeth, gums, tongue in the last couple of weeks. The horses have been from Hillsborough county and south so far, and no specific hay supplier has been identified. The most common symptom reported has been profuse drooling but they have also exhibited swelling of the tissues, oral ulcerations, unusual tongue movements, an unwillingness to be touched, and barbs visible in the mouth and lips. Some owners noted head tossing and a general discomfort when utilizing a bit.
Identifying foxtails in an equine mouth can be a challenge as they aren’t fans of opening their mouth on command. If possible, you can hold their tongue to the side (they generally won’t bite down on it for a short period) or you can try using a twitch. If successful, you’ll want to be sure to check all surfaces….the barbs tend to move under the tongue and into the roof of the mouth. If they will not cooperate, you’ll need help from your equine dentist or your veterinarian and the use of a speculum. The thistles and seedpods are barbed and difficult to see without good lighting and oral access. This is the best photo we could find to give you an idea of what they look like (Image copied from Pet Helpful.com)
Removing foxtail barbs is a manual process. You can try rinsing if they aren’t firmly embedded, however actually grasping each barb with tweezers is most effective. Depending on the number ingested, this may take several attempts as they move to the surface of the tissue. The single best way to treat foxtail injuries is to prevent them from occurring…..examine your own pastures for the foxtail plants and examine the hay you are purchasing for visible plants, thistles, and seed pods prior to feeding. These few moments of preparation will save your horse from a painful oral injury!
References: Pennsylvania State University College of Agricultural Sciences, Washington State University Agricultural Extension, Pet Helpful.com.
Please Support our Charities!
Advanced Equine Dentistry has the honor of supporting several local charities and athletes! We truly enjoy being able to offer our help in the equine community and we’d love our clients to know and support some of these folks too! These events are upcoming soon and just in time to get Halloween ready! Hope to see you there!
Why AED Recommends Equine Dental Exams Twice a Year
Horse’s teeth do not grow, they erupt at a constant rate throughout the lifespan of their teeth. The teeth which are 4 1/2 to 5 inches long as a young adult, exist below the gum line with only the crown portion exposed. Over the first year, horses develop their 24 “baby teeth” and under which some of the permanent teeth will come into place. From the age of 1-5, all of the horse’s permanent teeth will erupt and those that are replacing the original baby teeth will push those baby teeth out as caps. Throughout their lifetime many changes occur in the dentition of your horse and the tooth surfaces are “supposed” to be worn away evenly with proper chewing as they erupt. By the time a horse is aged, the teeth “expire” leaving only root stubs or simply no tooth at all.
So what changes that process? A whole collection of things:
- Caps may come off unevenly or not completely (a cap or portion of a cap that remains can alter the tooth eruption of surrounding and opposing teeth)
- Bone grow of the jaw is uneven (overjets, underjets, overbite, underbite)
- Genetic defects allow for less than optimal dental development (horses in nature with bad tooth structure did not survive and were not bred)
- Modern feed and feeding methods impair the appropriate “grinding” of tooth surfaces (horses teeth are designed to chew grasses for >20 hours/day with their head down)
- Lateral movement of the jaw is impeded by dental abnormalities and further impairs “grinding ” of tooth surfaces (once you have “hooks” and “ramps” or elongated incisors, you no longer have normal chewing)
- Broken teeth cause discomfort through sharp edges and exposed nerves and disrupt the chewing pattern as the horse tries to avoid that tooth while eating.
- Individual teeth “expire” with aging and opposing teeth may hyper-erupt without an surface to grind against.
A comprehensive equine dental exam is not the same thing as a routine “float”. While very often, sharp “points” are removed during our visit, the purpose of the exam itself is to identify misshapen teeth, structural abnormalities, retained caps or portions of caps, misaligned teeth, oral injuries, or dental infections that can not be seen without actually opening your horse’s mouth…..or somehow getting them to tell you! The points/sharp edges that are addressed during dental care are simply components of the teeth that have not ground (or worn) evenly as the teeth erupted and now press into tender mouth tissues causing lacerations and discomfort. While those “points” seem to get all the attention, they are only a small portion of what is happening during the exam.
The recommendation to have your horse’s teeth examined twice a year is based on the fact that their mouth is continually changing, that they are prey animals and will naturally hide any injury/illness, that we can not see inside their entire mouth without lighting and tools, and because they simply can’t tell us what is wrong! Advance Equine Dentistry is honored to be your partner in protecting the wellness of your horses by providing comprehensive dental care!
Want to Help Your Horse’s Digestion? First Step is to Feed Them from the Ground!
Digestion starts in the mouth…..for humans and for horses! But our human “design” is a little different and our dinners are too! Horses teeth, bone structure, musculature, and salivary glands all function at their best when the food they are eating is on the ground.
The first step is getting their food into their mouth. When a horse’s head is down, their mandible and maxilla slide to bring their incisors and molars into optimal alignment; the perfect arrangement for both “cutting” the forage they have selected and for chewing it into the tiny particles necessary for great digestion. If you have had a dental by AED, you know that after the procedure, Richard always drops your horse’s head down and checks their incisor alignment….perfectly aligned front teeth is what he’s looking for! Those incisors are a sign that your horse’s bone structure and tooth structures are lining up in the best possible way for them to eat!
Once in their mouth, that food is rapidly mixed with the more than 3 gallons of saliva the average horse produces in a day. Horses are a bit different here; they only produce saliva while they are actually chewing so having their head down is a huge benefit as it moves that saliva forward into the food bolus with each “chomp” rather than simply down their throat. And because great chewing for horses is all about repeated grinding, eating with their head down is a benefit as sets them up to move that food bolus more slowly toward their esophagus. They have to rely on their tongue, mastication muscles, and hard palate to push that food uphill (anatomically correct chewing!) ….if their head is upright while chewing, the process of getting food from the front to the back of the mouth is faster and their food is ground less thoroughly!
So…head down eating improves a horse’s ability to get their food in their mouth, increases the amount of saliva mixed into the food bolus, keeps the food in their mouth longer for better grinding AND can help your horse have fewer disruptions of their chewing surfaces….Or as you know them, “Hooks and Ramps”!!! Remember how I told you that your horse’s mandible and maxilla align when their head is down….well so do their teeth! Equine “hooks and ramps” occur most often when the alignment of of the occlusal surfaces is altered….simply put, when their teeth don’t line up as designed, they don’t wear evenly! And, once those uneven tooth surfaces develop, they alter the horse’s natural chewing pattern until they are removed….they keep getting bigger because they are no longer lined up with another tooth (or portion of a tooth) to wear the surface. While there are some other possible physical causes (structural abnormalities, broken teeth, etc) this is one place where you as an owner can have an impact on maintaining not only great teeth but improving the start of digestion for your horse with one simple step…….feed from the ground all the time and every time!
References: AAEP.org. Equine Mastication. 2022, Extension PSU, Feeding horses, 2015.
Sometimes you just need an explanation…
Do you know why we recommend equine dentals twice a year? Do you know how much your horse’s teeth erupt annually? Did you know that horses get gingivitis just like humans do? Did you know that there are feeding methods used by many that actually damage the enamel on your horse’s teeth? Do you know what steps occur in our routine dental visit, what your horse will experience, and what Richard looks for? Lots of our clients….and lots of our patients…..need a few minutes to ask questions! We love to teach and we are perfectly ok with those phone calls we get to simply “ask”! Email, text, or give us a call…..like they say, there are no stupid questions!!!
Some absolute “MUST’s” for complete equine dental care
Equine dentistry is far, far more than a “float”. In fact, with horses living decades longer than in the past, the care and preservation of their tooth surfaces through advanced dental techniques is of key importance in protecting their health. Here are a few components that are “absolutes” in helping to assure the dental care they are receiving is the safest and most complete…..
- Your equine dental practitioner should ALWAYS, ALWAYS uses a light source!!! Dental tools are sharp, horse’s mouth are deep and dark…..lighting is an absolute for safe dental care.
- Your equine dental practitioner should use a speculum. A speculum holds a horses teeth apart and allows for visibility and safe, accurate movement of dental tools. Without a speculum in place, the furthest molars are rarely opened far enough for adequate access to the posterior tooth surfaces.
- Your equine dental practitioner should address and treat your horses incisors (front teeth) as well as their molars (back teeth) at every visit. A horse’s “bite” can be disrupted by uneven surfaces on ALL teeth and simply reducing the sharp points of the molars is not sufficient. Elongated and uneven incisors can directly affect their alignment and grind surfaces.
*ALL TEETH, LIGHTED, FULLY VISIBLE, AND EXAMINED SAFELY AT EVERY VISIT*
Join the Grist’s in honoring Morgan Bosch Dombrowski DVM
Please join Richard and Terri on May 29th for the announcement of the recipient of Morgan’s memorial scholarship for 2022. The memorial is included in Ladybug Farm Sanctuary’s Wine and Cheese fundraiser event, an organization that Morgan supported personally. Along with her husband and any family who can attend, we are thrilled to support a student of animal studies on Morgan’s behalf.
If you are interested in attending and learning about Ladybug Farm Sanctuary, the event will be held on their property at 12536 Tyler Run Ave, Odessa FL. For any of you aspiring chefs, the Sanctuary is holding a charcuterie board contest during the event with a $250 prize! Hope to see many AED clients there!
Last day to apply for the Dr. Morgan scholarship
When Morgan died last year, lots of her friends and colleagues wanted a way to memorialize her. The staff at Ladybug Farm helped to do just that; in cooperation with her husband and family a scholarship fund was created for students of animal sciences. Many donations have been received and the deadline to apply for the funding is today, May 10th. If you are a student and interested, please utilize the the sanctuary’s link and complete the application. We are certain that Morgan would be thrilled to know we are developing more individuals to care for animals in her honor! The following link is to the scholarship page in honor of Morgan. https://ladybugfarmsanctuary.com/dr-morgan-fund-1