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Equine Dental Care and Basic Horse Teeth Problems

The teeth of your horse grow continuously and it is therefore not surprising that they are a likely cause of concern for the watchful owner. While a dental exam is usually the way that dental problems are detected, you will be able to tell that something is amiss when your horse chews with difficulty, drops more feed than it actually swallows, suddenly evidences a coat that is in poor condition, or if you notice undigested substances in the animal’s stool.
Add to this warning signs a sudden onset of colic or severe behavioral problems, and you may very well have some undiagnosed dental problem on your hands.

Sadly, many a horse owner’s knowledge about proper equine dental care is limited, yet to protect the health of the animal a closer look at its teeth is imperative. Did you know that unlike humans, the horse’s teeth are mostly seated deep inside the jawbones of the animal? The teeth continue to grow yet this rarely causes a problem since they
wear down when the upper and lower teeth grind one another while chewing the feed.

smiling horseWhile the teeth grind the food, they also trap a fair amount in between one another which is a major cause of the inflammation of the gums known as gingivitis. Left untreated, this condition leads to tooth decay and gum disease. Another medical condition that may give rise to problematic teeth is found in horses that are born with an elongated upper jaw which prevents a proper alignment with the lower jaw. Such improper alignment will prevent the horse from being able to adequately wear down its teeth and this in turn will lead to severe dental problems. Consider the fact that suddenly the upper teeth do not have corresponding lower teeth to grind them and keep their growth in check, and you will quite easily ascertain that the most common problem are unevenly worn teeth that will impact the animal’s ability to properly chew its feed and thus draw adequate nutrition from its food. Teeth that are not worn down properly will form pointed surfaces that will cut into the gums of the opposing jaw that leading to abscessed gums.

Such condition may be indicated if your horse suddenly begins tossing its head or appears to evidence behavior that is in keeping with poor training. Take a look at your horse’s teeth from the side and see if the rate of wear appears to have formed a wave-like pattern. Other causes for dental concern are injuries that may lead to the loss of a tooth, thereby once again disrupting the proper grinding pattern of the upper and lower teeth. While old horses are most susceptible to dental problems, horses as young as foals may evidence them as well.

As you can see, adequate dental care is a priority that must not be overlooked. Frequent veterinary checks for pointed or misaligned teeth will prevent abscesses that require costly treatments. Pointed teeth may be filed down to prevent injury to the gums. In extreme cases, tooth extractions and even surgery to promote the proper alignment of the jaws may be indicated. Ask your veterinarian to train you in the appropriate methodology of examining the condition of your horse’s teeth yourself so that you can keep a close eye on its oral health.

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