Link Image Marv Walker Index Page

Bite Re-Alignment - Incisors

Well it's way too cold to ride -30C, it has been for the last 2 weeks. So I decided its time to see what else I can do to get ready for the nicer weather. I was hanging over the stall door watching my mare eat and realized all was not as it should be. She wasn't dropping her mash but sounded like a garberator that was working intermittently. After she had finished I stuck my fingers in her mouth to feel for points, nothing sharp or unusual, I then checked her bite from the front. So I realized there was a problem her front teeth didn't meet as they should have her lower teeth have quite a large cresent shape worn across the 2 central teeth. She had an allergic reaction to the grass or something on the grass last year and could not be kept on pasture ( she bloated as tight as a drum and her respiration was at 60/min, after each exposure it would take two weeks to return to normal)

Anyway, I realized it was time to get teeth floated, I checked around the barn to see else would like their horses done, also to get recommendations on who to get. I had seen the local vet in action, with the mini side grinder, I had some doubt as to the efficacy of the grinder to produce a level plane, I think it would be great for knocking off points but since the working surface of the disc looks to be smaller or the same as the width of the teeth how consistent are the results?

In the area where I live we have several equine dentists, I have heard nothing but good things about their level of training, horse handling abilities and skill. They have taken their training courses in The States, as opposed to the average graduating vet, who gets about 3 hours of dental training in a 4 year course. I worked at a Vet clinic in Sask. both the vets there took a week long upgrade course on dentistry. I would have no qualms about either of them floating my horses teeth. However, where I am now, in Alberta what I have seen does not build confidence.

The major problem arises in the fact that the dentists cannot sedate horses to do the work and the vets refuse to sedate a horse and then stand back and watch a dentist do the work. They must have better things to do with their time. As one vet said " If I have to come there to sedate the horse and stay 'til it's recovered I might as well do the work". He missed the point entirely.

I may be able to get some Ace or Atravet, Ihave heard that they may not do much depending on the horse

Any insights or experiences would be helpful! My mare has always been sedated for floating as a matter of course.

I really don't know where or how to trim this so I guess I'll leave it pretty much intact...

From what I read in this your horse needs a bite re-alignment. In order for a horse to chew optimally the incisors (the nipping, biting teeth in the front) should meet in a straight line with the cutting edges of the upper and lower incisors being parallel. Since the horse chews side to side, this allows the molar arcades to grind the food.

When they are not parallel and there is a dip in the lower incisors (there is usually a mating curve in the upper edge that fits into the lower cutting edge. As long as the top curve rests in the bottom, the arcades usually meet. But when the jaw is moved to the side, the long teeth in the upper incisors ride up the curve in the lower incisors from the shorter teeth to the longer which separates the molar arcades in the back and prevents them from grinding the food properly.

When a horse has this condition, it is susceptible to a wide variety of digestive problems including starving to death, colic and bloat (the food is not broken down properly and the resulting gases bloat the horse).

The treatment for this consists of sedating the horse and using a Dremel or similar tool to score the incisors in a manner that allows removal of all (or as much as the practitioner feels comfortable with) of the excess of the long teeth. The practitioner then chips off the teeth along the scored line. Once the cutting edges are brought more to a straight line, the arcades then meet better.

Floating is to equine dentistry what the lightning bug is to lightning. Floating is only the most rudimentary of dentistry. Yet, as has been pointed out, because of the traditional lack of any kind of dental training at vet schools, most vets consider floating to be kit and parcel to equine dentistry and look down on any other additional work.

This bias often makes them extremely resistant to anything else. I know EXACTLY what you are going through and I wish I had some quick quip that would guide you to a solution.

14 years ago we had two older horses who were skin and bones in spite of our best efforts to fatten them. We were shoving food at them like there was no tomorrow to no avail. We were a few weeks from having to have them put down.

And then a woman nagged me to come and do an article about the equine dentists that she brought in from out west just to do her horses. At the time I was one of those who thought floating was the be all, end all and I wasn't interested in going out to this crackpot's farm to do an article on floating featuring two guys who traveled hundreds of miles to do what *I* could do myself.

Thank goodness she didn't let up. I finally went to just get her off my back.

A half hour after I arrived I was making arrangements for them to come and do our horses. I could not believe how involved equine dentistry was and in very short order I was demanding an appointment for our horses.

They showed me the incisor curves in both of the skinny horses and recommended a bite alignment. They said the horses would have to be sedated and that we'd have to have our vet do that. We needed to schedule the vet and the dentists together.

Well, it seemed like a good idea at the time...

Our vet didn't think so and told me why, licensing, laws and all that.

"You have been our vet for 20 years and you will continue to be our vet, but one way or another these horses are going to get what they need. If you won't do it, I'll find someone who will. You can come and we'll take the wart off Joe's nose to occupy yourself while they are working. You have a choice; you do it or someone else will be working on your patients. They need something you do not offer and I'm counting on you to help."

He reluctantly agreed to come out.

Within a few minutes after the alignment they were both scarfing food. In two weeks, they were roly poly. One of the horses is our 36 year old Morgan stallion who still looked over fed when he died years later.

There are two seldom dealt with areas that do not cost, they pay. One is chiropractic, the other is equine dentistry.

We have a neat little thing here in the US, and from what I hear, in Canada as well, where the vet association wants a "uniform veterinary model" which makes it a crime for anyone to do anything to a horse that REMOTELY resembles veterinary care if they are not a vet. They say it is for the horse owner's protection. It's for THEIR protection and to give them total control. Vets even want to control the stuff they aren't interested in learning or offering - acupuncture, massage therapy, chiropractic, dentistry, shoeing, saddle fitting, to name just a few.

Good luck in your efforts,

Marv "Why can't people pay more attention while I'm driving and cell phoning?" Walker

Click here to check out my very reasonably priced DVD inventory covering many of the subjects featured on my site's pages in greater depth.

Back To Top

For Further Information Contact Marv Walker 706 816-7190 Evenings 9 to 12 PM
Questions, comments or suggestions
Back to Marv Walker's Index Page

vBulletin statistics