Advanced Veterinary Equine Dentistry

Dr David Clemence has undertaken extensive postgraduate study in equine dentistry. David is passionate about the improving our equine friends’ quality of life and this is why he is committed to providing an ethical, effective and evidence-based approach to dental care.

Wondering if you should use a dental-trained vet to attend to your horse’s mouth? Here are some answers to questions you may have. Please feel free to contact the clinic if you have any additional questions, we are more than happy to help!

How will I know if my horse has a dental problem?

Tricky question…and the short answer is that you won’t know! Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs such as pain or irritation, however, horses are remarkably stoic creatures and may show no noticeable signs at all. David is constantly amazed at how horses with serious dental issues show their owner no obvious signs of discomfort. Often, by the time many owners notice a problem, such as dropping feed from the mouth, avoiding or fighting the bit, or a smell coming from the mouth or nostrils, the issues inside the mouth are likely to be very serious.

How often should my horse have a dental examination?

It is essential that you horse’s mouth is examined on a regular basis by a vet. We recommend that this examination be performed as part of your horse’s ‘annual health check’. By performing routine preventative dental maintenance, dental problems can be identified and treated early so that severe issues in the future can be avoided.

The need for a dental examination differs according to the age of the horse as well as the horse’s individual needs. As a rule, the horse’s mouth should be examined at least once a year, however the frequency will increase as the horse reaches its senior years (20+). We strongly believe that the horse’s quality of life and longevity can be enhanced significantly through routine dental care by an experienced dental vet.

What does a thorough oral examination by a dental vet involve?

Firstly the horse needs to be well sedated. We do not sedate them because of behavioural or management issues; we sedate them so that we can examine the entire mouth, not just the areas we can ‘feel’ or see with the naked eye. This type of examination would be impossible without sedating the horse. Sedation reduces the stress levels for the horse and allows the thorough examination necessary to assess the entire mouth.

The horse’s head will be supported by a stand of dental halter suspended from above. The muscles used for chewing, bones of the skull, salivary glands and lymph nodes are all assessed from the outside along with the range of jaw movement. The vet will tap the sinuses and assess this sound as check the nostrils for any discharge.

The vet will then rinse the mouth thoroughly before feeling for any obvious problems. Using a powerful light source, he will illuminate the oral cavity in order to make a detail assessment on each tooth, the gums, cheeks and tongue. A dental mirror and probe are then used for a more detailed examination of the teeth, gums and cheeks. Imagine trying to do all that with an unsedated horse! Without this extensive examination, significant problems can easily be missed. Many serious dental problems occur right in the back of the mouth and cheeks, making identification with the naked eye and an unsedated horse impossible.

The vet will record in detail all findings from the examination. The resultant dental chart and report becomes part of the horse’s medical records which can be referred to in future examinations. Sometimes X-rays may also be required to provide more information about the teeth, condition of pulp chambers, roots of the teeth and the surrounding bone.

What’s the difference between ‘traditional floating’ and ‘power floating’?

Up until approximately ten years ago, horses had their sharp enamel sharp enamel points and dental crown elongations reduced with hand-held rasps otherwise known as floats. Fortunately, over the last decade, equine dental techniques have ‘caught up’ with the dental expertise available for small animals. Based on extensive research, these dental techniques utilise the benefits of the power float to treat the equine mouth. The main advantages that power floating provides to the horse is a more efficient procedure and greater precision. Using a power float requires a high degree of skill and requires a qualified and experienced operator due to the potential to cause damage with the instrument.

Sedation and the use of power tools should only be undertaken by a vet who has undertaken postgraduate training in advanced dentistry. By using a vet with postgraduate training, owners can feel confident that their horse’s dental care will be of the highest quality, comprehensive and humane. Vets have the medical knowledge to understand and treat dental conditions, as well as assess any dental issues in the context of the horse’s complete state of health.

Interested in finding out how a veterinary dental can improve your horse’s quality of life? Call the clinic to find out more, we are more than happy to discuss the advantages.

See David’s dental video