April 7, 2008

The Horse Dentist!

It’s recommended that humans visit a dentist twice a year for regular checkups and cleanings.  Did you know that horses should also be seen by a dentist just as often?  The reason why this is so important is because, unlike human teeth, a horse’s teeth continue to grow, developing sharp edges.  This can make chewing and digesting food difficult, or holding a harness bit uncomfortable.  But, it can also just feel tender or sore inside the horse’s mouth.  These problems are alleviated by a specialist, known in the field, as a lay equine dentist, whose skills involve floating horses’ teeth.  Floating means to smooth and contour equine teeth using special files, called ‘floats.’  And, unlike humans, a horse’s nerves end close to the gum line, so there are no nerve endings in the teeth to feel any pain from this procedure.  Of course, if a dental problem is discovered, the lay dentist will report it to the veterinarian. 

This is Brian Stuart, my lay equine dentist.  Brian learned his profession through apprenticeship.  Here he is examining Rutger to determine which teeth, if any, need to be floated.  Brian explained that Rutger never seems to mind his dental work.  It’s as though he actually knows Brian is there to make him feel better. As you can see, it’s quite important for an equine dentist to have excellent horse skills.  This is not an easy job, by any means.


These are some of the tools of the trade, soaking in a dental disinfectant.

Here is a close up of a couple of files known as floats.

Brian determined that certain molars in Rutger’s mouth were too sharp and long and did require floating.

With the dental procedure over, Rutger looks quite content.  Obviously, this is not the kind of dentistry where you would want to wear a white coat!