Looking after your horses teeth:
Nowadays it is recognised that horses teeth must, like our own teeth, be regularly examined. Unlike our teeth, a horse’s teeth carry on growing and should naturally wear down as they eat. However, they rarely wear down evenly and so need intervention to ensure the horse can eat properly, perform to their best and generally be comfortable.
Most of us have had toothache, know what it feels like to have a sharp point on a tooth, know how sore an ulcer is, etc. But imagine having a bit in your mouth with one of the above problems. We will trot off to our dentist – a professional, who has studied for years to obtain their dental degree.
A six monthly check up is recommended so all potential problems can be identified and remedied before serious pain and complications set in. The best option is to get your veterinary surgeon to do the check up – and this can be conveniently carried out at vaccination time. A veterinary surgeon can legally perform all aspects of equine dentistry – and most will have attended species specific veterinary dental courses. They will also be fully insured to carry out the procedures.
In order for a thorough examination to be carried out it is often necessary to use sedation, either orally or via injection. A gag will be used – it is impossible to examine the teeth at the back of the mouth without one! The vet will sometimes wear a head torch – a horse’s teeth go a long way back and it’s a bit dark at the back! A head stand sometimes would help to keep the sedated horse in position– which as well as saving the owner/handler having to stand trying to hold the head up and still, also enables the vet to get a proper view.
Once this is in place the vet can carry out the examination, show the owner/handler any problems and then perform the necessary treatment.
Unfortunately, there are numerous people who call themselves ‘horse dentists’ or equine dental technicians (EDT’s) who are regularly examining and ‘treating’ horse’s teeth. However, DEFRA are now trying to ensure that these people are properly qualified and their work regulated. In order to qualify as a DEFRA approved EDT they have to pass a 2 day exam. Even then they are restricted to the type of work they can perform, some of which must be carried out under the direct supervision of a qualified veterinary surgeon.