Vet Services Wairarapa Ltd, 24 Lincoln Rd, Masterton

Opening Hours: Mon - Fri 8am - 5.30pm, Sat 9am - 1pm

Horse Teeth Checking & Rasping

In the wild, horses don’t get their teeth checked and rasped. Why do we need to?

Power Float with Equivets system of mag floats

Due to our improved care and knowledge of our equine friends, horses and ponies now live longer than ever, plus we expect more and more of them performance wise. An improved comfort level and ability to bite and chew has a lot to do with this. We don’t want our performance horses to cross their jaw, toss their heads or lean on our contact as a way to deal with dental pain.

Horses are fundamentally built to constantly eat their way through a large amount of fibre. They do some digesting in their stomach but their caecum also needs a constantly supply of the right sized particles of fibrous material to maintain optimum health. How can they do this? By having a plentiful supply of roughage - whether it be grass, hay or baylage. This is best for avoiding stomach and hindgut ulcers as it’s how their digestive systems are designed to work.

There can be a big stumbling block at the front end though - if your horse can’t bite and chew properly, then the fibrous material can’t get masticated to the small size needed for this whole system to work. The three main sources of problems (in no particular order) are:

  • Incisors. These need to be able to actually grab the grass to do their job. If your horse is elderly, perhaps he has started losing incisors. If he has a parrot mouth with no occlusal (opposing tooth) surface left, this can also be a problem. Horses can also get fractures and tooth root problems in their incisors which can cause considerable pain.
  • Premolar and molar overgrowth. Horses chew constantly. This means that if the upper and lower arcades are not aligned correctly, then it’s very easy for the teeth to become unevenly worn. This can result in teeth become too long or short, or starting to create points, hooks or ramps in various directions. They can end up pushing into the cheek and cause painful ulceration. This doesn’t just impact on their ability to eat, it also means that it can be painful for the horse to have a bit in their mouth, or to be able to relax through the jaw which is desirable for a happy and soft steed. The back molars can have only a small amount of overgrowth cause a large amount of contact issues as there is not much space between the teeth and cheek. These are often overlooked or not well addressed with an unsedated horse as they can be uncomfortable.
  • Fractures and diastema. It is not difficult to understand why fractured teeth cause pain and may require removal. Diastema are where a pocket forms next to the tooth, which can then get food material packed into. It’s a bit like after your Christmas dinner, if you have a wee bit of turkey stuck between your teeth – imagine how annoying that would be if you couldn’t get a toothpick to pop it out! They can become quite deep and painful.

At Vet Services Wairarapa, we routinely do our dental work with the horses sedated - it’s included in the price. We feel we do a better job, the horse is happier, the owner is happier and it’s safer for all involved. If you strongly do not want sedation, we can do this also.

We have a wide range of gear from our Haussmann gag, battery operated PowerFloat to our full set of Equivet tooth magfloats, picks and mirror. The Equivets system has many different sizes and angles of float for the many different tooth and jaw shapes encountered. You’ll get a full examination, work done as required and a report afterwards to show what has happened with any recommendations. Our standard dental charge is $110 plus mileage (but includes routine sedation) - if you have large numbers at the same property, feel free to get in touch to see if we can do you a bulk rate.

There are many other problems outside the scope of this article that can happen. The take home message is that you should check your horses’ teeth at least once per year with a suitably qualified individual.

Horses should never be worse after routine dental work and your dental professional should be happy for you to feel the difference before and after their work is done – you can’t tell what is going on in there from the outside!

Published Wednesday 21st of September 2016

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