Monday, 13 July 2015

Equine Dentistry & Bitting Talk

Last week I went to a talk by a member of the British Association of Equine Dental Technicians (BAEDT).  I find it an interesting subject and it makes you think about the type of bit and noseband you choose.

Some of what was covered I have talked about in my Teeth blog and Bitting blog but it was fascinating to hear it from the point of view of a dental technician and see more photos.  Many horses will put up with a lot of discomfort and pain before showing any signs so regular (6 monthly or annual) dental checks are important.  We covered the signs of discomfort as I did in my blog but if a horse seems fine it DOES NOT mean that everything is fine.  One thing that was new to me is that some ponies will pack food into their cheeks (like hamsters) to protect their cheeks from the sharp edges!

We had a good look at 2 horse skulls and what I found interesting was that apparently tooth problems and damage most often occur in the teeth directly affected by the placement of the noseband!

So what do dental technicians do?

Their most frequent job is to maintain the molars surface and prevent and/or smooth any sharp edges that develop from the chewing motion.  The mouth opener or Speculum, which always looks so terrible, allows the dentist to have a really good look at the teeth.   I try to remind myself that the discomfort of this is better than the pain, discomfort and injury sharp or bad teeth can cause.

 They will check that they are not displaced, that there are no fractures and that there are no problems with food becoming caught in a diastema (gap between teeth). 

Wolf teeth removal should be done with a vet present. The vet will sedate and give a local anaesthetic to reduce the stress and discomfort for the horse.  The tooth is then hopefully removed simply - they are smaller than you expect.  There are rarely infection problems as long as the area is flushed well afterwards and the horse has plenty of time without a bit to recover!

In younger horses the dental technician will also check for any developmental problems with the cheek teeth (molars).  This can include:

  • retention of the deciduous teeth 
  • diastema, the surface of the molars should be tightly pressed together so that they act as one functional grinding surface, any gaps and food can get caught 
  • displacement of permanent teeth (if deciduous tooth does not get pushed out) 
  • supernumerary cheek teeth - this is if the horse has extra molars - as there is little extra room in the mouth these extra teeth can cause problems.  However, they are often difficult to remove, again because of the limited space.


What shouldn't dental technicians do?

In Great Britain there is currently NO requirement to be registered and no monitoring that dental technicians are trained or qualified.  The BAEDT has set up a register for dental technicians (they are not called dentists) in Britain so that by using one on the register you can be sure they are trained and monitored!

Vets can widen diastemas while the horse is sedated - dental technicians in Britain are not permitted to.

They are not permitted to give any drugs or perform operations.

I was surprised that fractures of molars often occur spontaneously and are common in the upper jaw.  The fractures often displace the tooth into the cheeks - obviously causing pain.  These fractures also often occur in the noseband area.  Which suggests that tight nosebands cause pressure on the teeth.

According to the BAEDT there are some thoughts now that the molasses, haylage etc that we feed our horses are altering the PH of the horse's mouths.  So, like in humans this can lead to caries (holes in the tooth) these can then lead to teeth fractures.

Bits that cause excess pressure on the bars can cause extra bone to develop which may be sharp - which will then cause pain.  These extra bits of bone can then break off which will obviously cause further problems.

It was an interesting evening and I definitely came away with some food for thought and the intention to find out more!

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Until next time!

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