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May 5th, 2017

The Kentucky Derby: Racing with Healthy Teeth

Category: cincinnati dentist

Aaahhhh… Derby Days! This weekend will be filled with celebrations, parties, and horse race watching. Get-togethers will be complete with derby attire, cocktails and lots of delicious food. Gamblers set their sights on their favorite picks…And, this event kicks off the first of the Triple Crown series for the year.

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Preparation For The Derby

An event this huge naturally has days, weeks, months and years of preparation going into it – for everyone involved: the horses, owners, riders, organizers and even the fans. An immense amount of effort and energy goes into keeping the race horses healthy, well trained and primed for these big events. And this includes their dental care and maintenance!

Just like a human needs regular dental care and dentist visits, so too a horse needs regular care by their owners and veterinarians to keep their teeth and mouths healthy. Just like we don’t want oral problems interfering with our day-to-day lives, no one wants to see a tooth problem in a horse affecting their performance on race day!

Regular Dental Care For Horses

Regular dental check-ups for horses are essential, just like they are for humans. For horses, a dental checkup is vital to their overall well-being, and should take place every six months to a year. These check-ups serve to ensure proper hygiene and function in the mouth, and to detect and eliminate any problems as early as possible, to keep the horse comfortable and able to eat and perform. Their dentist will check for teeth and dental abnormalities, potential tartar buildup, signs of infection or other issues, and gum disease (1,2).

How Does A Horse Communicate A Tooth Problem? 

When a horse experiences a tooth problem, it is sometimes mistaken for bad behavior. Signs that a horse could be dealing with a tooth problem could include head tossing, bit chewing, tongue lolling, excess salivation, sluggish chewing, refusing to eat, riding with his head held high, trying to avoid the bit, or problems staying on the bit mouthpiece. Understandably, the horse is trying to express his discomfort (1, 3).

Daily Chewing

Horses have, on average, 36 to 44 teeth, and chew a shocking 40,000 times per day as they eat. The high number of teeth and high usage of these teeth increases the risk that problems could arise with one of them.

For example, during the chewing process, horses normally wear down the chewing surface of the tooth slowly and steadily. As this happens, new tooth material slowly grows up to provide a fresh chewing surface.

However, this process isn’t perfect, and if the wear on the tooth is uneven, the teeth can form sharp edges. These sharp edges can cut into the horse’s cheeks or tongue, causing painful sores. These sharp edges are removed by a dental procedure for horses known as “floating”. In this process, the veterinarian uses specialized tools to smooth the sharp edges of the enamel (1, 3, 4).

Racing And Bits

The bit mouthpiece used in riding should never affect the horse’s teeth. But sometimes horses develop extra teeth called “wolf teeth” or “tushes.” In many horses, these teeth will never cause a problem. Depending on the shape and location of these extra teeth, they could interfere with the bit or become easily irritated. In this case, the horse may need a specialized bit, or the kentucky derby 2017problematic teeth may need to be removed by a veterinarian or equine dentist so they do not become sensitive or infected by irritation from contact with the bit mouthpiece (1, 4).

Keeping Horses In Top Performance

Race horse owners are especially diligent when it comes to dental hygiene for their steeds. Issues with chewing can result in an insufficient food intake, weight loss or difficulty maintaining weight. Pain and discomfort from oral issues in a horse can impact their training, stamina and race-day disposition. And for anyone who owns and loves an animal, the thought of them suffering in pain or discomfort is not a pleasant one (4).

Just like in humans, prevention in horses is typically easier, cheaper and more comfortable than waiting for a problem to occur. That’s why we commend horse owners who keep their regularly scheduled check-ups, AND why we recommend you do the same for you and your family!

Enjoy the Derby this weekend!

Questions for Dr. Hagen and the Hagen Dental Team?

We want to help keep the dental health of you and your family at its best! Call us at (513) 251-5500 to schedule your next visit.

Sources:

  1. https://www.thespruce.com/essential-dental-care-for-horses-1886863
  2. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/14175/brushing-horses-teeth
  3. http://sawpan.com/dental-care-tips-to-keep-your-horses-teeth-healthy/
  4. http://www.thehorse.com/articles/27010/20-things-your-horses-teeth-are-telling-you

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