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Re: equine dentistry

Dr. Metcalf raises many excellent points.  The important thing is for horse
owners to be educated enough to know what particulars to ask and to know if
the job is being done correctly or not.
While I do not want to make general negative comments about Vets doing
teeth, the fact is in my area very few vets do the proper exam as Sarah
Metcalf outlines below.
I also agree that sedation is not necessarily a bad thing.  That said,  I
regret allowing my vet (who was very proud of her recent specialized dental
training) to overly sedate my horse, so that she could barely stay standing,
and then could barely walk a mile home, which the vet was aware of.  I paid
$32 just for sedation, which I considered excessive and much more than
necessary.  There is a difference between 'relaxed and comfortable' and what
my horse experienced.

Even tho my vet is 'qualified' or 'certified' for dental work, she will not
be doing my horses' teeth again.
I do admire vets who have proper training AND who do a proper job.
I encourage my fellow endurance riders to get educated, so they can do the
best they can for their horses!

Sarah McIntosh & Saffy (75 miles) & Tawny (no miles)
Abbotsford, BC
----- Original Message -----
From: <>
To: <>
Sent: Monday, February 04, 2002 6:44 PM
Subject: RC: equine dentistry

> Sarah Metcalf DVM
> Excellent equine dentistry can be done, and is done, by both veterinarians
> and technicians. As a veterinarian whose practice emphasizes dentistry,
> I'd like to add a few comments to the current discussion of the subject.
> These comments reflect my personal point of view, my opinions and my
> preferences; and are based on my training and experience. Other
> practitioners might have different viewpoints.
> First, it surprised me that several people mentioned dental work being
> done without sedation:
> 1. A full-mouth speculum is necessary for a complete examination. Failure
> to do a complete exam will result in problems....sometimes serious...being
> missed.  Use of a speculum without sedation entails increased risk to both
> horse and handler.
> 2. Without sedation, certain assessments cannot be made
> (lateral excursion, time of molar occlusion during lateral excursion, and
> evaluation of the molar interocclusal space)....simply because these tests
> have to be done with the horse's incisors CLOSED....and unsedated horses
> invariably open their mouths in response to even the gentlest fingers
> touching their lips, gums and muzzles.
> 3. While credit should always be given to tactful and successful
> horsehandlers, I think it is a mistake to glorify the failure to use
> tranquilization for dentistry. I have the horse rest it's head on a padded
> headstand, and I want it to "sleep" comfortably through the procedure.
> Personally, I think that dentistry is FUN, and I try to convince both
> horse and owner to share this attitude; but realistically it is probably
> not  all that much "fun" for most horses. Keeping the horse relaxed and
> comfortable minimizes stress.
> 4. Bear in mind that we are doing detailed, precise work with motorized
> instruments, working deep in the horses' mouth. This requires that the
> horse hold quite still. (No moving targets!)
> 5. The majority of horses who have not had regular dental care, have
> painful ulcers and small lacerations on the inside of their cheeks at the
> back of their mouths. It is not comfortable for them when we have to work
> in this already-damaged area with dental tools; sedation provides some
> pain relief and allows this work to be done quickly and efficiently.
> (Fortunately, the mouth heals very quickly once the offending sharp teeth
> are made smooth.)
> 6. The vast majority of horses that I see wake up quickly from sedation
> and experience no side effects..
> When choosing a dentist for your horses, I would suggest that you look for
> a person who:
> 1. Does a complete exam with a full-mouth speculum.
> 2. Will let you see and feel what is happening with your horses' teeth,
> and will explain it.
> 3. Has access to motorized instrumentation: while it is theoretically
> possible to correct waves, hooks, steps; do bit seats and even incisor
> bite re-alignments with hand tools, it is MUCH easier and faster to do it
> with power tools. The result is a more precise job, and a horse who gets
> out of the dentist's chair (so-to-speak) that much sooner.
> 4. Will leave you with a copy of a written dental chart which details the
> condition of the horse's teeth and the work that was done.
> Cost:....hmm...$40-50?? This is actually very low. I recently had the
> opportunity to do routine maintenance on several horses who had been done
> previously by Tony Basile, a nationally-known certified dental technician
> (not a DVM). These horses had BEAUTIFUL teeth and required minimal work to
> maintain. When I looked through the dental charts that Mr. Basile had left
> with the owners, I noticed that his fees were higher than mine. (Oh
> well! )  Most people, when allowed to see and understand what is being
> done, appreciate the value of the work.
> Sarah Metcalf DVM
> PS. For more info on this subject, check out Dr. Tom Allen's web site:
>  It is very entertaining and readable.
> PPS. The float with the little round grinder: this is actually a GREAT
> tool. Concern about maintaining desired angles (10-15 degrees) of the
> molar grinding surfaces is legitimate, but I am convinced that with
> careful use and attentiveness, this can be done with rotary instruments.
> This tool is VERY gentle to soft tissues, allows both operator and
> observer good visibility, and is great for getting the painful sharp upper
> points in back, as well as hooks on the lower back molars. (NO I don't
> sell them, I just BOUGHT one...and it was rather expensive!)
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