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Equine Dentistry

By Isabel Wolf Gillespie, Member of the PATH Intl. Equine Welfare Committee

Do you know the difference between motorized vs manual dentistry technique?

Do you know which one is best for your horse?

Last week the equine dentist came onto the property to treat two of the middle-aged geldings in my herd of 26. The herd consists of wild horses that we rescued about three years ago, as well as 10 ‘domesticated’, working horses. The wild horses have become very relaxed in the three years living with us, but at this point in time they would never allow a human hand or metal instruments inside their mouths.

Dentistry has never been high on my priority list, due to the fact that my herd lives out, in mountainous terrain, with access to diverse grass and plant species allowing them to graze selectively as they should. Despite their happy, healthy lifestyle, two of the working geldings started to show these pockets along their jawlines, where most likely grass gets stuck behind a wolf tooth or possibly a broken tooth or hole.

The dentist arrived with plenty of boxes and an immense amount of equipment, which I couldn’t recall was necessary from my previous dentistry experiences. Upon questioning, the dentist outlined the procedure and that’s when I realized that he will be using motorized gear – a first – on my horses. It’s not that I hadn’t heard of the motorized technique before or that I am somewhat ‘old-fashioned’, still I was a little bit nervous and concerned for the well-being of my horses.  

According to Veterinarian Dr. Raymond Q. Hyde, DVM, who has been in practice for 26 years and at the same time is a certified equine dentist, the use of motorized gear has its beginnings in Germany over 60 years ago.

Dr. Hyde elaborates that the technology using motorized equipment was lost due to World War II, when afterwards horses were no longer considered ‘that valuable’. Equine dentistry as a result, took a backfoot so to speak and only more recently the need for more advanced dental procedures and care has regained importance.

The manual floating of teeth is a fairly simple procedure - I say fairly, as some horses as with their hooves, just don’t see the point of these procedures! If your horse is comfortable with a halter (and mouth prop) on its head, touching around the mouth and can stand still, you and/or the dentist should be fine.

One of the most severe differences between manual and motorized in my opinion, is that the horse has to be sedated for the motorized procedure. The equipment makes a lot of noise, and the vibrations the horse is exposed to during the use is just too much to stand for without a little help. Additionally, the possibility of injuries with motorized equipment is higher especially if the horse shakes its head or moves around.  

This is largely the reason why equine dentistry with the use of motorized equipment is often done by veterinarians, who are permitted and skilled in sedating our animals. If a dentist is not a vet, the vet will have to be called out for the motorized dentistry procedure, which impacts on our budgets for such procedures.

After my recent experience and doing some research into the equine dentistry field, I have come to realize and understand, that the dentistry procedure itself remains the same, whether motorized or manual equipment is used.

Whatever procedure you choose for your most precious four-legged companions, the key lies in selecting the right equine dentistry practitioner. Ensure you are choosing a highly skilled individual, someone with experience and good references, someone that will treat your horses kindly during the procedure. The danger does not lie in the use of equipment, but rather in poor technique or unskilled application.

Reference List:

http://www.equinedental.com.au/why-do-horses-teeth/power-tools-and-equine-dentistry/

https://ivcjournal.com/equine-dentistry/

https://wwe-idaho.com

https://horsedentistry.info

https://www.amscheqdentistry.com

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