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Equine Dentistry

The teeth are essential parts of the digestive tract. Depending on gender, adult mares have 36 teeth whereas adult stallions have 40. Food chewed effectively by healthy teeth is easier to digest by the stomach and intestines. There is a great difference between equine and human teeth: In the equine, teeth grow constantly. A horse living in nature can graze for 20 hours in a day. Teeth are worn away due to constant chewing and this is a desired result. Nowadays, horses kept in stables are provided with feed and hay 2-3 times a day. When compared with their natural environment, chewing periods are much shorter, and this inevitably leads to unwanted growing, sharpening and abrasion problems.

Under these conditions, teeth are unable to grind the food well. This increases the burden of the stomach and intestines. Badly ground food passes to the intestines without being digested sufficiently in the stomach. This may lead to congestions within the very long intestines with sharp curves. The horse cannot benefit sufficiently from its feed and this may result in weight loss and reduced performance. Also, the sharpened teeth may cause wounds and pain in the cheeks. As a result, the horse may show distress and unwillingness in eating and even training.

Sometimes stiffness could be felt between the horse's mouth and the rider's hand during training. Stiffness and resistance by the horse may be due to different reasons. Some of these problems could be completely due to the rider's riding technique and resolved particularly by learning how to use the hands more sensitively. However, if the existing problem is due to dental abrasion and the problems reflecting on riding are due to pain reactions, then the examination of the mouth cavity and teeth can be conclusive from this respect.

Even if no problems are present, the horses' teeth must be checked semiannually as in humans. The elongation period of the teeth varies depending on the horse's nutrition habits and the type of food consumed. During examination, the horse's mouth is kept open by means of a speculum. Thus, even the molar teeth at the back of the mouth could be reached safely and the examination could be carried out.

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The examination of the mouth cavity and the teeth is easily conducted by means of a speculum that assists in keeping the horse's mouth open during the examination.

After first being identified, any teeth with abrasion problems are rasped. It is crucial to rasp the sharpened edges of the teeth in order to facilitate the horse's natural chewing motions. Periodical examinations increase the chance of early intervention and enable us to detect the tartar built-up and other oral problems before growing worse and causing major damage.

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