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Vet J. 2005 Mar;169(2):165-87.

A review of equine dental disorders.

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Department of Veterinary Clinical Studies, Easter Bush Veterinary Centre, Easter Bush, Midlothian, Scotland, EH25 9RG, UK.


Equine dentistry is a very important but until recently rather neglected area of equine practice, with many horses suffering from undiagnosed, painful dental disorders. A thorough clinical examination using a full mouth speculum is a pre-requisite to performing any equine dental procedure. Common incisor disorders include: prolonged retention of deciduous incisors, supernumerary incisors and overjet--the latter usually accompanied by cheek teeth (CT) overgrowths. Overjet can be surgically corrected, but perhaps should not be in breeding animals. In younger horses, traumatically fractured incisors with pulpar exposure may survive by laying down tertiary dentine. Loss or maleruption of incisors can cause uneven occlusal wear that can affect mastication. Idiopathic fractures and apical infection of incisors are rare. The main disorder of canine teeth is the development of calculus of the lower canines, and occasionally, developmental displacements and traumatic fractures. The main indications for extraction of "wolf teeth" (Triadan 05s) are the presence of displaced or enlarged wolf teeth, or their presence in the mandible. Developmental abnormalities of the CT include; rostral positioning of the upper CT rows in relation to the lower CT rows--with resultant development of focal overgrowths on the upper 06s and the lower 11s. Displaced CT develop overgrowths on unopposed aspects of the teeth and also develop periodontal disease in the inevitable abnormal spaces (diastemata) that are present between displaced and normal teeth. Diastemata of the CT due to excessive developmental spacing between the CT or to inadequate compression of the CT rows is a common but under diagnosed problem in many horses and causes very painful periodontal disease and quidding. Supernumerary CT mainly occur at the caudal aspect of the CT rows and periodontal disease commonly occurs around these teeth. Eruption disorders of CT include prolonged retention of remnants of deciduous CT ("caps") and vertical impaction of erupting CT that may lead to large eruption cysts and possibly then to apical infections. Disorders of wear, especially enamel overgrowths ("enamel points"), are the main equine dental disorder and are believed to be largely due to the dietary alterations associated with domestication. If untreated, such disorders will eventually lead to more severe CT disorders such as shearmouth and also to widespread periodontal disease. More focal dental overgrowths will develop opposite any CT not in full opposition to their counterpart, e.g., following maleruption of or loss of a CT. Because of the great length of reserve crown in young (hypsodont) CT, apical infections usually cause infection of the supporting bones and depending on the CT involved, cause facial swellings and fistulae and possibly sinusitis. Diagnosis of apical infection requires radiography, and possibly scintigraphy and other advanced imaging techniques in some early cases. When possible, oral extraction of affected CT is advocated, because it reduces the costs and risks of general anaesthesia and has much less post-extraction sequelae than CT repulsion or buccotomy.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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