You guys are awesome, thank you so much for looking after Taruni. - Sue from Greenbank
At Hoof N Paws a dental examination is not simply just a rough file of the mouth. We ensure high value for money, and assimilate free extras within the normal cost to guarantee your equine is getting the most out of our visit.
When the vet arrives you will probably notice that they have a portable crush in tow. This is used so that our dental exams are calm and safe experiences, as horses are in purpose-built equipment. The crush is very open, so even horses that don’t like to go on floats are usually willing to walk into our crush.
The vet will then assemble the crush and equipment, before performing a physical examination of the horse. This includes assessment of the heart rate, capillary refill time, body condition, respiratory rate, mucous membranes, enquire about the horse’s tetanus status, and check their temperature if necessary. If all is ok with the physical examination, the horse receives its first sedative injection.
The horse will then be walked into the crush and receive its second shot of sedation. The vet will then proceed to flush the mouth and examine the teeth, particularly looking for common problems such as sharp enamel edges, hooks, excess ridging, waves, wolf teeth, loose teeth and consequential wear and ulcers.
Whilst the horse is sedated the vet will examine the range of motion the mouth has before the dental, checking the jaw’s flexion and extension capabilities. Teeth abnormalities can hamper the horse’s range of oral motion, reducing its ability to adequately chew and therefore digest food. If a horse cannot do this properly it may suffer from malnutrition and even get colic from passing food that hasn’t been chewed properly, irritating the gut.
The horse will then be fitted into the dental halter and our special gag. At Hoof N Paws, we have never used a Swales gag, as we have come across many cases where horses’ teeth have been chipped, cracked or completely split: a result of the gag putting all the pressure onto one point. The Hoof N Paws’ gag places even pressure on all of the teeth, making a safer and more comfortable method of keeping their mouth open.
The vet will then proceed with any treatments required. If the vet finds a severe abnormality and it requires treatment that may take longer than the normal dental time, they will show you, discuss costs and gain your consent before going ahead. Some problems cannot be attended to straight away due to time constraints or the need for specialized equipment, so another appointment may need to be made for a later date. Luckily, there are very few problems associated with horses’ teeth that are considered to be emergencies, so delaying treatment for a few days or even weeks is usually not a problem.
The teeth in a horse’s mouth are constantly growing, the growth rate decreasing as the horse ages. The vet can only take off enough of the tooth so that the horse can still chew properly. If the vet has taken off as much as is viable and the abnormality is still present (though now to a lesser extent), the vet may recommend a 3 or 6 month recheck rather than the usual 12 month one. They will then be able to come back and readdress the abnormality, hopefully being able to further-correct it.
Hoof N Paws vets use a powerfloat, as well as hand tools. The powerfloat’s plate which grinds the teeth is actually quite gentle, and the vet may demonstrate this by touching it whilst it is in motion. So, it may look scary, but you can rest at ease that it shouldn’t damage the horse’s gums etc. In saying that, the powerfloat is able to take a lot of tooth off seamlessly and much more quickly than traditional rasps. As a result, unskilled practitioners may take too much of the tooth off accidentally, causing the horse to suffer. That’s why all Hoof N Paws vets using the powerfloat have been properly trained in order to get the best and safest results from this innovative tool.
Once the mouth has been treated the vet will ask you to slowly walk your horse out of the crush. Male horses also receive a free penis exam and clean at the end of the dental, as the penis is let down when the horse is relaxed under sedation.
The vet will pack up and provide you with a highly detailed invoice outlining the treatment your horse’s oral conformation. It will also detail when the vet thinks it appropriate for the next dental exam. For most this is in 12 months time, but for performance horses, young horses (up to 5 years old), or horses with oral abnormalities requiring further attention, the vet may recommend a visit sooner.
A Hoof N Paws Dental usually takes 30 minutes for each horse, as well as 15 minutes to set the crush up at the start, and 15 minutes to pack up when all horses are done.