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equine dentistry...last time

Sarah Metcalf DVM
One final word of unsolicited advice....for the benefit of HORSES:

Don't let, technician, friend, trainer.....take a quick
feel of the outside of the first upper cheek tooth (this is the classic
check for "points") or pull the tongue aside for a quick look, and on this
basis tell you that "the horse is OK" or "he doesn't need to be done".

The following  (true story) is a letter written to a friend after working
on her lovely herd of Paso Finos. All names have been changed, just for
the heck of it. (Everyone involved, except maybe me, was innocent!)

THE STORY OF "HANK" 11 yr. Curly Stallion

Hi Pam,

Thank you for having us up.....your horses are great patients.

Treeva's horse Hank...have you seen him? Very cute! 11 year old stallion.
Black, sweet, and absolutely Rastafarian. Even the hair inside his ears is
tightly curled. His mane and forelock look as if they have had one of
those very expensive permanents, and his whole body coat is a short Afro.

He has a history of having been kicked in the jaw by a mare as a two-year
old; and since then has intermittently dribbled food, and been a
hard-keeper, requiring supplementation. Recently however, he seems to be
eating normally and maintaining weight on just grass hay. A veterinarian
at the boarding stable had told her that that Hank was "OK" and "didn't
need to be floated".

I wasn't sure if she wanted me to just examine him, or actually work on
him. When we got there, I was tired enough that I almost hoped we'd get
away without setting everything up and going back to work, and be able
instead to head down the road towards bed.

A brief exam without sedation showed normal incisors, moderately sharp
points on upper first molars; looking into mouth with tongue held aside
revealed the usual deep dark cave, blurred by motion, and obscured with
gloppy food material. I gave Treeva the choice: while nothing looked too
bad on a cursory exam, we really couldn't tell for sure if the teeth in th
e back 2/3 of his mouth were OK.

She chose to have a complete exam done.......good choice!

The horse had a very long wedge-shaped step at the junction of the upper
8-9's (the cheek teeth are numbered 6 to 11 in each arcade). This step was
so sharp on the lateral side that it created ulcers on his cheeks the size
of quarters. It also had wedged apart his lower 8-9's so that a diastema
(a space between the teeth) extending down to the gum was created. Worst
of all, his lower 11 had a very sharp hook that was literally an inch
tall. It was digging a hole into his soft palate. I have never seen
anything quite like it.

So...upon seeing THIS...all those nice neurotransmitters that temporarily
defeat fatigue kicked in; Lynn and I forgot about going home in the near
future, rolled up our sleeves, and went back to work.

The good thing is that all problems were fixed in the end; Hank is no
longer in pain, and he is young enough for all this to be corrected and
then maintained. I plan to re-examine him in 6 months. I believe that the
lower molars that had been wedged apart will move back into place now that
the cause of the problem is gone.

 The horrible thing is that he had endured this for so long...and what if
no one had ever looked? This haunts me. I am so grateful to Treeva for
choosing not to just let it slide.

Lesson of story for me:

should be visualized and palpated...before even remotely telling the owner
that "things are probably OK". .

PS. He tolerated the work with an amazingly small amount of drugs, and
need only one bump-up dose.

PPS. Hank's dental problems were bilateral and had nothing to do with the
history of having been kicked in the jaw when he was a 2 year old.

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