Before working on a horse, I always take a few moments to say hello and allow them to get used to me and my tools. I have plenty of experience working with nervous horses, and enjoy getting to know all of my patients’ quirks over a course of treatments. A routine examination usually takes around 30 minutes.
- Examine the horse’s condition and head
- Discuss any problems the horse might have been having, or recent changes in management.
- Palpate the temper-mandibular joint (TMJ or jaw joint) for pain, inflammation or asymmetry.
- Check the incisor (front teeth) balance and condition. Any problems with the incisors can have a knock-on effect with how the molars (back teeth) meet, causing problems further back in the mouth.
- Check the wolf teeth and canines, if present.
- Brief clinical examination, listen to heart and sedate if required.
- Quietly fit and open the gag.
- Flush the mouth to remove any leftover food from around the teeth.
- Inspect teeth with head torch and feel with a hand to check for sharp enamel points, imbalances, food packing, decay, ulceration, gum disease or other problems.
- The gag can then be closed to give the horse a rest, and a treatment plan discussed.
- This is tailored to your horse’s particular mouth but often involves smoothing of sharp enamel points, profiling to remove hooks and ramps, balancing of the dental arcades and attention to ensure soft tissues are not being caught and pinched when the bit is applied.
- Last inspection with headlight and hand to ensure the whole mouth is comfortable and well-balanced.
- Remove gag and give horse a stroke!
- Finish off canines or incisors with a hand float if required.
- Check the jaw moves comfortably with a full range of motion, and that teeth can grind effectively.
- If your horse has been sedated, they will now need to stand quietly without food until they have completely woken up – usually 20-40 minutes after treatment is complete.
The Dental Chart
- This is a standardised record of your horse’s treatment and any abnormalities found, as well as details of any sedation required and when their next check-up is due. One copy is for you and one is kept for our records.
Occasionally, horses may be suffering from severe dental problems and require advanced diagnostics (e.g. X-ray) or treatment (e.g. molar extraction). Direct referral can be made to an in-patient facility of your choice, in close communication with your own vet.