A Different Type of Dentistry by Lo (Trainee Dental Nurse)
As I’m sure many of you have already read I spend most of my spare time doing things with my horse Ru and one of those things involves arranging for a dentist to come out and check his teeth every 6 months / 1 year.
There are specialist horse dentists that can be sought for this job, and they have to go through training at university much like our own dentists. Teeth checks can also be done by a vet which is how Ru has his teeth checked, so I thought I would just write a bit about Ru’s experience with the dentist.
On the 10th of September the vet was due out for Ru’s annual flu and Tetanus vaccinations and I decided that as it had been a year since his last check he would have his teeth looked at too, especially as he is just getting some new teeth through. I would describe Ru as a very nervous patient, he lacks confidence with the dentist and normally has sedation.
Horses’ molar teeth are set a long way back in their mouths and most of the time you cannot see them or get to them. However, over a period of time they get sharp edges and build-up of tartar which needs to be cleaned off. To do this you put what is called a mouth gag over their front teeth. It is not as mean as it sounds! It acts like a mouth prop keeping the mouth open a little, enough for the vet to be able to get her arm in. After all, you can’t ask a horse to stay open for a few minutes! 🙂 They then file the sharp bits of teeth down with some instruments and chip off any tartar. This usually only takes 10 minutes if the horse is standing still and they are filed regularly. This doesn’t hurt in any way, it is just like filing a nail.
So back to Ru, as I mentioned above normally he usually requires sedation which is given intravenously (straight into the blood stream) so it works instantly and to make matters worse he is needle phobic too. Seems strange for a horse doesn’t it! He has never had a bad experience he just doesn’t like them! However this time around I had been doing lots of preparation. He likes to chew on things so that’s a good start, and as he chews on things he tends to suck them in towards the back of his mouth. When he does this I just pretend to file his teeth with the object. To start with he spat it out a lot, with a look on his face like eugh what was that! Then slowly he became less and less reactive and started to be more accepting, lowering his head instead of flinging it up in the air.
This preparation meant that when the vet came he was much more relaxed and this time he had it done without sedation, what a brave pony!!! The vet was very kind to him and as it turned out he only had a couple of sharp places, which was super. 🙂
Needless to say he got spoilt with carrots and scratches afterwards – both of his favourite things!!