The Magazine August 2019

Equine dental checks

Posted 19th June 2019

Ever wondered what’s going on when your vet or equine dental technician (EDT) checks your horse’s teeth? Nicole du Toit offers you behind-the-scenes access

Equine dentist looking into horse's mouth

We all know how important it is to schedule routine dentistry appointments for our horses – without regular check-ups, a minor problem can turn into something far more serious. But, what is your dental professional actually doing on these visits? From the warning signs to look for to the tools they’re likely to use, understand the process from start to finish.

First and foremost

Before examining your horse, it’s useful for your vet or EDT to have his full history to determine whether there are any potential issues they should take into consideration. It’s especially important for your clinician to be aware of…

  • age
  • breed
  • previous dental history
  • other health conditions – diseases such as Cushing’s may predispose a horse to developing ulcers or put him at higher risk of sinus infections or periodontal (gum) disease

Dental disease warning signs

Horses rarely show obvious outward signs associated with dental disease. The most likely signs will be very subtle, or only noticeable on careful examination. These can include…

  • problems during ridden exercise, such as stiffness on one rein or bit avoidance behaviour
  • facial swelling, particularly in the case of a tooth root abscess or a fractured tooth with a displaced fragment
  • sinus infection, which is generally due to an infection of the upper cheek teeth and presents with a one-sided snotty nose or a bad smell
  • asymmetrical or unusual swellings of the lower jaw may also be as a result of a tooth root infection

Less common indicators of dental disease include changes in eating or chewing. While weight loss can occur as a consequence of dental disease, don’t rely on this as an indication of a problem – it’s often only noticed in end stage severe dental disease.

Find out more about what your equine dentist does to your horse when checking his teeth in August Horse&Rider, on sale 27 June.

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