Ask the Vet: Dental Care

Courtesy of AAEP

Question: My mare is 15-years-old and cribs. Her front incisors no longer touch because of it. Stopping her is not an option so what should I have the dentist concentrate on when he is here for fall dental care? The mare is currently in good weight with plenty of energy..

Answer: Your dentist should treat your mare like any other horse and give her a complete oral/dental exam. This should be done with an oral speculum and light source to insure that every tooth is examined. Often, sedation is required for a complete and thorough exam to be performed. If your dentist is not a veterinarian, and therefore not liscensed to administer sedation, you will need to arrange to have your veterinarian meet your dentist at the farm. Aside from the excessive wear of her incisors, the rest of her teeth should be similar to other horses’ and require the same care, i.e. reduction of sharp enamel points, hooks and ramps and examination for signs of oral disease.

Question: My veterinarian is hesitant to do any more floating for my horse that is 27-years-old. I am wondering if that is the best course of action. He has a history of wave mouth.

Answer: I can understand both your veterinarian’s and your concerns. Some of our geriatric patients have such extensive wear of their teeth that there is little left to float or the changes are so severe that they cannot be completely corrected. However, their need for excellent dental care does not decrease and in most cases only increases as they age. Your veterinarian may also have some concerns about your horse’s overall health and the risks that sedation may pose. I certainly recommend routine blood work yearly in my older patients and a thorough physical exam to make sure their heart and other organ systems are functioning normally before I consider sedation for a routine procedure such as dentistry. Thankfully we have choices for sedation that are safe even in our geriatric patients. I would recommend discussing all of these issues with your veterinarian so that you can better understand his/her concerns. Depending on your horse’s overall health, he may have several more years ahead of him, and good dental care and health will be paramount to the quality of his life as he heads toward thirty. Recognition and removal of loose and diseased teeth, removal of sharp enamel points and prevention of super eruption of teeth that no longer have an apposing tooth to wear against are all important reasons not to discontinue dental care at this stage of his life. Our geriatric patients often even require dental exams twice a year.

Question: I recently purchased a five-year-old mare with a severe parrot mouth. She maintains good weight and has no problems eating. I’ve read that with this condition, it is recommended to have her teeth examined twice a year. Besides bi- annual check-ups, is there anything I can do now to minimize future dental problems as she ages?

Answer: Bi-annual check-ups will be important in minimizing the development of severe dental problems as this mare ages. Discuss your concerns with your veterinarian and dental technician if that person is different from your veterinarian. It is important to make sure that in addition to having her teeth floated, your mare should receive a complete visual and manual oral exam. This almost always requires sedation so that a complete and thorough exam can be performed. A horse with severe parrot mouth may be predisposed to developing hooks or ramps. Additionally, her incisors may require special attention as the may not undergo the same wear that a normal horse’s would.