HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ALL OF OUR CLIENTS AND THEIR HORSES.
This month, Mark Tabachnik tells us about his work in equine dentistry, and how dentistry has improved our horse’s lives.
So, why equine dentistry?
Early in my career I chose to try and get really good at equine dentistry. I did this because it was a specialism done really badly, and I felt our profession had massive room for improvement. Thankfully during my working lifetime I have seen massive improvements in the way we diagnose and treat equine dental conditions. The fact that horses are living so much longer and healthier lives is in part due to improvements in how aware horse owners now are of the need for regular dental examinations as well as the improvements in areas such as the sedatives we use and the equipment we have to diagnose and treat dental disease.
I didn’t realize the teeth went so far back!
The horse’s mouth is very elongated, with a long row of cheek teeth used for the hard task of grinding up grass and hay into small enough lengths to be digested. A horse should be able to grind up hay into fibres less than 2cm long. You’ll also have noticed horses spend a large percentage of their lives chewing. With this in mind the mouth has evolved to create enough space for six large cheek teeth in a row.
Why do you sedate your patients?
We sedate most of our patients routinely. This allows for a more thorough examination and treatment of the horse or pony and allows us to get right to the back of the mouth. It’s also a lot less stressful for the patient, who has a nice snooze during the procedure and it’s safer for the handler and the vet.
Who should do my horses teeth?
If you are looking for a non-veterinary dental technician, we have a lot of really good equine dental technicians around the practice area. Always look for members of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians. You can find them at baedt.org. The advantage of using a qualified EDT is that they are insured and have trained to a suitable standard. They also understand which cases they can treat themselves and when to refer. Both Nic and I are qualified as EDTs and Vets, with Liz training for her examination.
Can horses have fillings?
Yes, we routinely do fillings for decaying areas of teeth. Before fillings, the disease would progress to the point that the tooth would fracture. Now, with fillings we can drill out the decay and preserve the teeth for the future.
How do you take teeth out?
Horses can have loose and diseased teeth that require extraction. We bring these into the clinic and generally use standing sedation and local anaesthetic nerve blocks. This is a massive advance from a generation ago when horses were given a full general anaesthetic, and the extraction techniques mean we have much fewer complications too.
Do horses get gum disease?
Gum disease is a big issue with horses. Food can get trapped in small gaps between a horse’s teeth. This food will sit and decay in the gums causing local inflammation and damage to the surrounding tissues. This causes bleeding and gum recession allowing more food to pack in. There are a number of treatments, from simple flushing the gaps clear (think about a visit to the hygienist) to a widening procedure that enlarges the space between the teeth meaning food can sit in the gums but won’t pack in causing inflammation.
If you’d like to know more about how we can help your horse’s teeth, phone the office and ask for a call back from one of our dental team.
FARM AND EQUINE The Barn, Holly Tree Farm, Holmes Chapel Road, Lower Withington, Macclesfield, Cheshire, SK11 9DT