Common Dental Findings

Sharp enamel edges or ‘points’ (SEPs): caused from normal wear of the teeth which can often be razor sharp and cause painful ulceration to the tongue and cheeks.

Large hooks or ramps: can prevent the horse from chewing freely resulting in improper wear and prematurely worn-out teeth.

Overgrowths (teeth that are longer than they should be): caused by poor conformation or loss of teeth. Often found on the cheek teeth. Even small overgrowths can restrict the movement of the teeth against each other and therefore restrict the jaw making it very uncomfortable for the horse to chew but also to work on the bit when ridden.

Wave mouth: where at least two cheek teeth are higher than the others, so that the grinding surfaces produce a wave-like pattern rather than a straight line, leading to excessive wear of some of the teeth

Step mouth: where one cheek tooth grows much longer than the others in that jaw, normally because the corresponding tooth in the opposite jaw is missing or broken, and therefore could not wear down properly.

Sheer mouth: when the grinding surfaces of the cheek teeth are excessively sloped which severely affects chewing.

Loose teeth: often uncomfortable for the horse and can lead to periodontal disease and tooth root abscess.

Fractures: broken teeth, these usually require removal.

Calculus (plaque): build up of plaque, often seen on canines but can also affect other teeth.

Periodontal disease (gum disease): possibly the most painful condition in the horse’s mouth. Can lead to bone erosion, infection, abscess formation and tooth loss.

Diastema (abnormal gap between teeth): where food can get trapped and start to rot causing periodontal disease.

Caries (tooth decay): bacterial infection in the tooth which weakens the tooth making it more susceptible to fracture or getting a tooth root infection.

Tooth Root Infections: these can be primary infections or can occur secondary to caries or fractures in the crown of the tooth. Infections result in abscess formation and the pus which accumulates often causes a tract that bursts out on the face, jaw, in the nose or in the sinuses. Occasionally such infections can be treated or at least kept at bay with antibiotics but they often recur and may necessitate extraction of the tooth.

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