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Horse Dental Problems
 By Saferaphus   •   7th Sep 2017   •   444 views   •   0 comments


Horses have a lot of teeth and a large mouth. There is a lot that can go on in there. Some of these things are similar to problems that can happen to our own teeth.

Many people have dental cavities. Most of us know that cavities form because bacteria of all types thrive in our mouths. If we donít clear the bacteria out and disrupt their plaque building activity, the plaque covering grows. Any sugar in your mouth is used by the plaque and produces acid. This acid dissolves the minerals your teeth are made of eventually causing little cracks and holes we call cavities. Does this happen to horses? Itís possible, but not very common. And, why dental cavities happen isnít really clear. One study, done in Western Australia were equine cavities are more commonly found it was the oat straw that the horses were being fed. The higher sugar content in the grain straw may result in an increase in cavities. Another risk factor was the type of water the horse had access to. Haylage and high sugar concentrates might also be a risk. Do these cavities need filling the way they would in our mouths? Not likely. A change in diet is thought to be a better solution.

So while horses may not get cavities, they can get tooth abscesses. These arenít caused by cavities but start deep in the root of the tooth. Periodontal disease or gum infections are caused by gaps between the tooth and gum where food collects. These pockets can become infected, and the infection can spread into the pulp of the tooth. So while itís not exactly like the causes that lead to a root canal in humans, it is somewhat similar. Outward signs are warm, swollen spots on the horseís cheek, dropping un-chewed food, difficulty holding a bit, drooling, a snotty nose and an unwillingness to drink water, especially if itís cold. It might be possible to look into a horseís mouth to find the infection but itís more likely imaging will need to be done. Once the problem tooth (or teeth have been found, the tooth will probably need to be pulled. The area where the tooth was pulled from is packed with antibiotics and allowed to heal. Then, once healed and healthy routine care is needed to make sure the horseís teeth stay in good shape.

Another common problem we can have are impacted teeth. In humans, itís not unusual for wisdom teeth to cause impactions. In horses, something similar called dental caps is caused by the milk teeth not shedding before the adult teeth grow in. Sometimes a horseís jaw is very crowded with teeth, and this can cause impactions. Occasionally, one or more front milk teeth stay in, causing the horse to have two rows of teeth. Sometimes a tooth bud under the gum splits before it emerges and forms two smaller teeth.This is called a supernumerary tooth and might cause crowding. In all cases, the solution is to remove the teeth that are in the way or at least float them so the horse isnít injuring the inside of its mouth, or in danger of infection.

Horses can have overbites, called parrot mouths, or underbites, called monkey mouths, like humans. There are no dental braces for horses to straighten their teeth, so aside from regular maintenance not much can be done. If you think itís hard to get a kid to remember to wear a retainer, forget it with a horse. It is possible to float the teeth back to make the horseís mouth look better, but it generally isnít done. These horses might have problems cropping grass, so attention has to be paid to their overall condition and ability to chew properly.

A blow to the mouth or biting down on something very hard can cause a tooth to crack or chip, just as with our own teeth. If the damage is very bad, the tooth will probably need to be removed. Leaving could lead the way to infection. Some cracks or chips donít present a problem and can be left.

While we might grind our teeth, wearing them thin, a horseís diet causes most of the wear and tear on their teeth. If they grind their teeth so there are sharp edges, hooks or wear them completely flat, they may not be able to chew their food properly. This leads to a danger of choke, a sore mouth or even colic and poor condition. Unfortunately, horseís can't be fitted with bite plates like we can. Thatís why itís essential to have a horseís mouth checked at least once a year and the teeth filed.
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