Feature written by British Horse Feeds consultant nutritionist, Dr Tom Shurlock.
It may not come as much of a surprise, but equine dental health takes up about 10% of veterinary practice time and is the third most common medical problem in large animal practice. Although more common, it is not exclusive to stabled horses, but they are more susceptible to most of the common problems, with the exception of sharp enamel points (SEPs) on cheek teeth. Having said that, and assuming regular dentistry work can maintain optimal dental health, there will be times when dentition is compromised, and this can impact not only on oral health but the whole process of digestion and nutrient absorption.
Whilst PETs are relatively common, but luckily easy to rectify with regular maintenance, there is a whole range of other dental problems. These can be broadly divided into overgrowths, uneven growth, ridging, slanting & curvature, as well as peridontal disease such as gum disease, abscess & gingivitis. Additionally, tooth loss can influence this list of tooth problems by modifying the growth of the surrounding area. And, although it is not surprising, this catalogue of disorders is seen more in older and veteran horses.
Whatever the underlying reason, compromised dentition can have a far-reaching effect. Affecting the ability of the horse to chew has a direct influence on the subsequent digestion of feed, even if there is material substitution for softer options in the diet.