Wednesday, June 6, 2012


Phew... it feels good to have things that desperately needed to be addressed actually get addressed, doesn't it? After waiting on the dentist's backed up new client list for over three weeks, Pangea was finally able to be seen and worked on. It was worth the wait... and worth the mucho $$$$$$$ that it cost!

As a horse owner and professional, I would say I know a fair bit more than your average horse owner about dentistry. With a brief refresher, I could name every tooth in a horse's mouth by number and quadrant. I can recognize pathologies visually from the outside as well as the inside of a horse's mouth, I can evaluate my dentist for exactly the things that I want to have worked on, and I can tell whether or not I've been duped by someone who is floating my horse's teeth. Everything my dentist had to say about my horse's mouth and issues aligned exactly with what I expected to hear, and the way she handled her speculum and tools made me very happy. She only opened the speculum for as long as she needed to to get in and out for each particular part of the adjustment, and then she shut it and let Pangea's TMJ relax. (If your dentist makes your horse sit with a fully opened speculum in her mouth for any lengthy period of time, run away and get a new dentist!!) She also worked for part of the time while kneeling, which was great for Pangea as she didn't have to crank her head up to the ceiling and stress out her already unhappy TMJ and atlas/axis. She did, unfortunately, have to be sedated THREE times during the procedure... she kept waking up! (Just like her daddy, that one... we had to cocktail the crap out of him repeatedly during every procedure we ever had to do with him. Gogo, on the other hand, was a classic lightweight and would be swaying on her feet with less than a quarter of the drugs needed to quiet horses twice her size. Cheap date.)

Pangea had some pretty obvious TMJ issues going on, which I suspected and discussed in my dental post a few weeks ago. Her left temporalis muscle - the big lumpy one - corresponded to the fact that she had actually been floated sometime in the recent past... but the whackadoo that did her left her entire right molar arcade completely out of occlusion save for one single molar in the back of her mouth that was eternally too high and damaging the opposing lower molar! She was working overtime to make the rest of those teeth touch, and she couldn't. The left side of her mouth had just enough occlusion and sharp points on the edges of her molars that pieces of her cheek were slipping inbetween them and getting torn up pretty badly. (Hmm, wonder why she was having trouble with left bend.) Her incisors, unlike her over-floated molars, were at far too steep of an angle and had been completely untouched by the previous dentist. When chewing, she had no free-floating motion of her mandible (which they need for oral health), so her incisors were receiving uneven wear and actually had something of a ventral smile to them. No bueno!

Drugged and standing quietly with a closed speculum.... no unnecessary cranking open here!

Molar adjustments. Taking away the sharp hooks and working out two molars that were totally missed by the last guy and were standing WAY too tall compared to all her other teeth!

Incisor adjustment.

She is chewing SO much better now!

Unfortunately, I have not been back on her to see how she feels under saddle. The weather has completely failed me in the fact that it suddenly out of nowhere became 100F every day with unusually blazing humidity, and Pangea is suffering for it. She is lathered in sweat every day when I go out to see her, and she is losing weight. We've also had several huge rainstorms offset by some desperately dry weather, and her feet are struggling to keep up with the changes. She is exceedingly footsore on any type of terrain that isn't her paddock (nice sandy loam), and it is to the point that it is negatively affecting her body. On top of all of that, she needs another chiro adjustment - due to the amount of dental work she needed, her entire body is back out of whack again. We're basically at a standstill until we get readjusted and help her feet out. I have a little something up my sleeve for her which I will wait to discuss until we get to try it out, but I'm hoping that with a little bit of time off and some general light maintenance and fixing-up, we can get over this little blip in the road and continue on. Everything had been pretty upwards until now, so I think it will only be a short matter of time until things are back to running smoothly again.

This heat sucks!!


  1. Wowsers, thank goodness you've had her seen to as soon as possible, those problems sound awful and must have been so unpleasant for her. So the sedation is just a kind of twilight sedation to keep them quiet? How sedated can horses be and still remain standing for you?

  2. Hmmm...I am anxious to see what you have up your sleeve for her >:)

  3. Poor baby! Thankfully she is with you now.

  4. Up your sleeve?! Hmmmm! Remember, you need to mention how you measure for heels per your last hoof trimming post! :)
    Also, it's crazy how much you know OR crazy how little I do! I will say the thing I loved about our dentist is he gives Laz plenty of breaks and never hand floats for more than a minute or two at a time. He also smells what food he found in their mouth to see if it stunk. I thought that was being committed to your craft! LOL!

  5. You lost me at occlusion, but I kept scrolling to see the pictures...pretty cool! I got chastised (and charged $500) by the horse dentist for having let me vet handle Pongo's dental care for the past year ;) I gotta tell ya though, with a baby who needs dental work every 6 months, it's a killer on the budget!

  6. I am extremely interested in following how things go. My gelding developed "mystery" headshaking after a float at the end of January. Same vet had me spend a fortune on xrays that showed nothing. Chiro identified TMJ and atlas issues. My daily work has been helping immensely, until this week when we took a huge leap backwards for no apparent reason. I increasingly suspect the float left him unbalanced. Equine dentists around here are over $700 a call *shudder*

  7. interesting stuff - thanks for posting... I wish I knew more about teeth and what was going on in there. Something to read up on this winter!

  8. Well, I'm going to chime in here with what might be Dumb Questions. This has been bugging me for a while so I gotta ask.

    1) When did all this attention to horses' dental needs become commonplace? I never, and I mean NEVER, knew of any horse getting any dental work done at both barns I rode at when I was a kid (late 60s-early 80s). All I knew about horse teeth was you could tell their age from them, if you knew what you were doing (Galvayne's Groove comes to mind), and that they'd occasionally get sharp points on the edge of their molars that needed filing off. The latter was courtesy of one single story in a James Herriot book (I read those like the Bible).

    It wasn't until about 2000, when I was back in riding, that I first saw a horse sedated with a speculum in her mouth and uprooted molars lying on the ground (urp). I was like, huh?? Now it seems that you are considered a Very. Bad. Horseowner. if your horse isn't seen by a dentist on a regular basis, there are specialized equine dentists, and many schools of thought on electric vs. non-electric tools, etc.

    2) How did all our domesticated horses get along without dentists in the past??? My friend whose horse I ride refuses to have her two seen by a dentist... she says Parelli taught her that the silica in grass naturally wears their teeth down... I don't know if I agree with THAT, but I do have to wonder how much all of this interference is strictly necessary.

    Clearly Pangea needed help now, but do you think it's all because of the last, botched dental work?

  9. Good questions RiderWriter... I think it just the natural evolution of the horseowning and veterinary process.... I mean, think about all the diagnostic tools we have now that are bringing horses back to competitive soundness (versus a few decades ago when you'd just turn them out to pasture and see what you had left in a year)... think about how many horses were literally dying of parasite infestation before we came up with methods to purge them of their wormloads... it is sort of the same idea I suppose. We know so much more now than we did then, and sure, our horses got along fine without these things for the most part... but they get along so much better now that we know more.

  10. How did humans get by in the past without modern dentistry? With less teeth, nasty breath, and increased mortality from infections. =D

    For all that there are older feral horses, there are a LOT more dead from starvation or exposure, exposure usually being secondary to not in robust enough condition. Yes, the natural diet of horses may help them wear their teeth more evenly than mankind's feeding, but we DO take them out of their element, so we should try to keep them as comfortable as possible.

    The average lifespan for a horse has increased dramatically since the widespread use of dewormers. "Back in the day" many horses died of "old age" in their early twenties. Now, many horses can be expected to live to at least 27 or 28, and plenty of codgers still riding at 32 and 33 even.

    Good dentistry is another important part of giving them not only longer years, but quality years.

  11. Great post. Equine dentistry is near and dear to my heart, especially because my horse needed so much work when I got him. When I read how much equine dentists cost I am so grateful that we have many equine professionals in NJ, which is due to the racing industry. My horse gets excellent care from a licensed professional for $80. Even serious work was not above $200, but believe me, that is high enough!

    When I was in high school, my dressage instructor's horses had regular dental visits (1990's), but I had never seen an equine dentist before that. Grass and hay do wear down the horse's teeth, but if the bite plain is not balanced to begin with, the wear will be uneven and continue to get worse. Horses with overbites are even more at risk, as hooks can easier form on the molars which compromises the horse's health as well as the rider's safety in the saddle (incessant head tossing anyone?). Horses who eat in high head positions can also develop hooks, which must be addressed periodically. And then there is TMJ... Basically, the competent equine dentist can be a rider/horse owner's flesh and blood angel!