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A date with the equine dentist

I want to share about the findings of my day with my equine dentist for my equine bodywork clients. I called my pal over to spend a day with me, balancing my mares teeth and another at the facility, before we continued to do evaluations on a few other horses that I have as clients. I have strongly suggested to these clients that we look at their teeth after evaluating translations (movements) of the jaw and feeling the horse as a whole, and thankfully, these owners obliged.


We saw 9 horses teeth in our evaluations, but two were youngin’s so I won’t be commenting on their findings. Our day was exhausting and upsetting so I lost sleep last night. Yup, I sure did. And now I'm writing. Maybe it'll help one horse out there, if so - it was worth my time, yours and theirs, don't you think?


I’m going to try to keep this educational and factual, without much of my opinions thrown in, I promise.


3 had “glass teeth”. When you rub your finger over the chewing (occlusal) surface of the molars, it shouldn’t squeak like you are rubbing on glass. The ridges on the molars help break down the food your horse eats. Glass teeth is a chemical state change provoked from power floats due to the heat of the drill, the grinding, and the speed it‘s done with. Horses are prone to colic, weight maintenance issues and GI issues when this is their situation, and it’s hard to come back to a normal occlusal (chewing) surface from.


We saw some long-in-the-tooth incisors, which according to people I value, shouldn’t be happening and is. They suggest the strain is then on the whole mouth because the incisors aren’t maintained. I think they are onto something, and I believe in it so much I do it with my horses. I saw and see no downsides - but that’s just my opinion. We recognize the mechanical sabotage with a hoof that is too long. Yet, we don't challenge this in the mouth? PLEASE question everything that is done, simply because that's the way it's always done.


We saw 2-3 wedges in the incisors. Some slight, some large. If you check out your horses smile, a wedge will be a slant in the incisors. They can also have a smile or a frown, or a wave. Not good either way. This can and does block the whole jaw from moving, which blocks the whole body. Neck flexion will be the most noticeable, and a horse with the bottom jaw wedged higher on the right can‘t go to the left - because of the jaw and that wedge. A veterinarian has done research on imbalanced incisors correlating to forelimb lameness while we are at it. He did his research with 1000 horses, I think he's onto something and I personally like that he's going against the grain and focused on the anatomy & functionality.


I think I recall every horse we saw had molar table inclination problems. What in the hell is that? Simply put "No bueno." - that's what it is. I'm unsure of the last horse on the day, because I should've taken notes. They have 4 sets of molar arcades/tables. Lower left, upper left, lower right, upper right. These have the premolars and the molars, this is where the chewing and grinding happens after the horse grasps the forage with the incisors. The lowers are designed to be taller along the tongue (palatal rim) and lower along the buccal (lip/cheek). The uppers are designed to be longer along the buccal (cheek/lip) and lower along the palatal rim (near the tongue and roof of mouth). This is their inclination and angle. Why is this important?


The jaw is designed to move in 6 planes, it opens and closes, moves left to right and right to left (except in so many horses I see... sorry, I couldn't resist) and towards the nose and backwards towards the body. Anterior/posterior movements respectively.


The importance comes from the horses ability, or inability, to chew for one. These angles are VITAL to the shearing and breaking down the strands of forage we feed. Nutrient absorption, especially with the saliva to assist, & GI health come to mind as well. If you get a chance to review a skull have a look at the way the teeth fit together, the mandible (lower jaw) is smaller, as it moves between the rows of molars on the top to chew.


Next, there is the TMJ and it's stability. I am going to keep talking about the TMJ until I die I fear. There's the facial nerves, the body nerves, the myofascial connections all over the body, the proprioception of the body, etc. I will always politely disagree when someone says the poll is the most important joint in the body and admire the TMJ. It has the poll at it's beck and call to boot!


Crap! I've outted myself as a bodyworker that doesn't hail the poll as the queen bee of the body.


Instability! Right, I gotta get back in focus. I didn't sleep well, remember? The inclination and shape of the molars actually help support the TMJ in optimum balance and function. So if you have a lower jaw that is flat (4 or 5 out of 7 - since I'm unsure of the last horsie) - that shearing, chomping, and nutrient absorption is SOL. Next, you also have no molar stability - AKA a TMJ that is all aboard the struggle bus, similar to myself this fine morning. The TMJ receives the contact between upper and lower molars as stability, so no contact equates to instability. Additionally, this means the neck is doing more than it should to stabilize the upper neck and TMJ and less nimble than you would like as a competitor. This is better than an inverted inclination on the lower jaw (2 or 3 out of 7). One of the horses with the instability has been seen by me a few times. The owner is worried of ulcers, him losing weight, and such. She has brought this to my attention and she was right in her hunch, whether she knows it or not. I tried to facilitate that light bulb moment yesterday. And I'm so glad she said yes when I approached her with wanting to do a thorough dental evaluation to review our bases.


Inverted inclination happens when a tooth-doer is doing everything they can to round out sharp points on the palatal (tongue side) of the lower arcade, without reducing the buccal (cheek) rim as well. They simply have taken too much. You can reduce the painful parts of the mouth and get rid of the source of pain without throwing the rest of the horse aboard the struggle bus.


1 horse had a massive "fang" - lack of a better word - of a hook on the upper left 6 premolar. I'm sure her lower 11 is also talking, but at the risk of losing a hand, we did not evaluate this. This horse will have her dentition resolved shortly and had not been done recently or to the owner's knowledge. Even with the fang, the recovery of this horse is much more bright and will resolve quicker than others we saw yesterday.


I recognize the gift of a practice I have helping horses resolve their tissue and structural responses to these issues. I do, but I also know the blockade of molar needs to be gone. No modality, machine or substance will solve this.


Several, maybe 5-6, had a hook on the last upper incisor on both sides. It happens. My mare had it pop up this last year as well, unsure of the other mare that was balanced with mine as I was not present at this time. This prevents the forward and backward movement of the lower jaw. Hey, engaged collection and self carriage, my friend!? See ya later, Alligator.


& we know that's not good either.


Many of them had ATR which is just a fancy acronym for big words meaning peaks and valleys on the occlusal (chewing) surface of the molars that lock down the jaw. Yes, these need to be dealt with, but let's do so without ruining the angles of the molars...


So how does one avoid this? Well, here is my two cents and opinion. When choosing a tooth-doer, please stay away from the zealously used power tools. Power tools can be okay, but my dad always said measure twice cut once, because when its gone - its gone and power tools create more of a risk of this in my opinion. I have heard horror stories of floats being done with power tools and minimal oversight of what the tool is doing within the mouth. Say what.


Other tips: Find someone that looks at the muscles of the face - especially those used by the jaw. Find someone who will check the TMJ out to see if it's metaphorically screaming, with tenderness, reactivity, heat, or boney changes palpably felt. Find someone who will open and close the speculum often to provide relief to the TMJ and it's disk within. This is not a normal position and we don't want to piss off the TMJ, ever since it has so many nerves running through that tight space. Finally, trying to find someone who cares more about the quality of all of the factors more than simply just eliminating sharp points - please.




#equinetmj #equinedentistry #horsejaw #sharp points #equineulcers #equinechoke #difficultybending

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