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Common Molar Problems

posted May 6, 2012, 6:18 PM by Claire Murray   [ updated May 6, 2012, 7:00 PM ]
Hooks are where half or less of a tooth becomes protuberant forming a point through abnormal wear. They are most commonly found on the upper #6 premolars or lower #11 molars and restrict or totally prevent anterior posterior movement which is required for comfortable efficient mastication and particularly in performance horses that are required to work in an outline.

Ramps involve more than half the tooth being protuberant due to abnormal wear and give the general feel of a ski jump. They are most commonly found on the lower #11 molar, right at the back of the mouth which is an area that is difficult to access due to a lack of room and a problem that is largely left unaddressed by ill trained/unknowledgeable practitioners. Like hooks they prevent backwards and forwards movement of the mandible.

High teeth can form various patterns such as a wave or step along the cheek teeth arcade (row of teeth) but they all create loss of function and imbalance in some way. They are generally present as a result of other factors such as retained caps, missing teeth, hooks, ramps etc. These teeth need to be reduced in height to restore function and allow an uninterrupted passage of food along the dental arcade. Maintenance will keep the high area from again being a problem until the opposing teeth (if they are present) erupt up to the level of the rest of the teeth on the arcade. If there is a missing tooth/teeth that horse will require regular, on going maintenance to the area in question.

Sharp Enamel points or edges.
Due to the fact that in a horse’s mouth the upper arcades of teeth are set wider apart than the lower ones they are prone to developing sharp, unworn points on the outer edge of the surface of the upper teeth and inside edge of the surface of the lower teeth. Left untreated these cause lacerations and abscesses of the cheeks and tongue.

Excessive Transverse Ridging (ETR).
Due to the soft nature of the feed we give our horses and the grazing that is available to them, the hard bands of enamel on the tooth surface to do not wear as quickly as the softer dentin and cementum substances which make up the remainder of the tooth. This leaves ridges of unworn tooth where there are concentrations of enamel bands giving the arcade of teeth a washboard like effect. The ridges occur at the anterior and posterior margins of each tooth. Left untreated the ridges become more accentuated until the mouth resembles mountains and valleys rather than a row of teeth.

Periodontal disease is where an accumulation of bacteria causes breakdown of the soft tissues resulting in separation of the gums and periodontal ligaments from the tooth. At first small pockets occur, but eventually if nothing is done, the tooth will be lost. In the early stages good dentistry usually totally reverses the problem. Periodontal disease can be found any where in the mouth and is usually secondary to other problems that cause an interruption to the food flow through the mouth or the circular chewing action. In a fully functioning mouth the large quantities of saliva that are produced and the chewing action provides a cleaning effect for the gums and teeth. They stay healthy and this problem does not occur.

All the above problems are not a natural occurrence but they have become common in our domesticated horses due to the environment they live in. They are problematic for the horse and have the potential to shorten the horse’s life as well as cause pain, dysfunction and poor performance. Many of the worst problems have been found in horses that were showing no outward signs. In fact waiting until there are physical signs may be a very unwise decision as by then the problems are likely to be very advanced. It stands to reason that in nature a horse does not show a physical weakness until the body can no longer cope as this after all, would make it a prime target for prey animals.

Other Problems

Long canines, can get caught on the bit as it is removed from the mouth, causing some horses to become afraid of having their bridle removed. They can also get long enough to pinch the tongue or even lacerate it. Occasionally a horse may have canines which come into occlusion (contact) which is undesirable.

Bite damage. This is on the bars of the mouth but is often seen in the corners of the lips.