External Facial Assessment
The first thing I do when I meet your horse is to check the overall condition of the horse (weight, coat condition and general appearance). I then palpate (feel) around your horse’s head, checking the TMJ (Temporomandibular Joint) and mandible for signs of discomfort, swelling, sensitivity and discharge. I shall check mandibular movement, both lateral (side to side) and anterior/posterior (back to front). Lastly, I will access the condition of the incisors.
Examination of the Oral Cavity
After completing the external examination, I will fit the speculum (gag) and wash your horse’s mouth out, to remove any loose food particles.
I shall carry out a visual examination of your horse’s mouth using a head light. During this I will examine all four molar arcades (rows of teeth) and visually examine the soft tissue.
I will also palpate your horse’s mouth to access the level of sharpness that may not be possible by vision alone.
Once the examination is complete, I will remove the speculum – this is for safety reasons while I access your horse’s tolerance to treatment as well as to help relax the animal.
With the speculum removed I will introduce the first of 2 rasps that are thin and revoke very little tooth, This will help ease your horse into the treatment. As long as the animal remains settled I shall introduce the third rasp – this will remove the majority of any sharp points for the upper teeth prior to refitting the speculum.
With the speculum refitted I will remove any remaining sharp points from the buccal (outside) edges of the upper molar arcades, as well as reducing any areas of overgrowth (hooks etc.).
It is important to give every horse a break during dental treatment. At this point I will close the speculum and rinse the mouth out. As I am sure you know when you visit the dentist, it is uncomfortable to have your mouth open for too long!
On the lower arcades I concentrate on the lingual (tongue side) edges of the teeth to remove the sparp points. Again as with the upper arcades some work may be necessary on the table surface of the teeth to reduce any overgrowth (ramps etc.).
Finally after a rinse and removal of the speculum, I check that the alignment and table angle of the incisors is acceptable. I also check side to side, front and back movement of the jaw and occlusion before I leave the horse.