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Equine Dentistry: Equine Teeth Cleaning with Equine Dentist Mark Burnell

Cleaning your horse's teeth can have an impact on his health and well-being. Learn the importance of equine teeth cleaning in this presentation from Horseland.com.au with equine dentist Mark Burnell.

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Equine Dentistry: Equine Teeth Cleaning with Equine Dentist Mark Burnell

  1. 1. Equine Dentistry: Equine Teeth Cleaning with Equine Dentist Mark Burnell
  2. 2. My name is Mark Burnell and I’m a horse dentist. I’m going to explain today about caring for horses’ teeth. There are two main reasons for doing horses’ teeth.
  3. 3. The first is to help the horse eat its food more efficiently and the second is to make the horse feel more comfortable while it is wearing a bit. So, I want to give this horse, Lucy, some hay. We are going to watch how Lucy eats and also we are also going to take this hay out of Lucy’s mouth after she has eaten a few mouthfuls. Horses evolved into their current form about 60 million years ago.
  4. 4. We’ve only domesticated them in the last two and a half, three thousand years and we’ve certainly modified their shape and their type to suit our purposes. But the basic thing underlying it all is horses can turn this long stuff, grass, into a digestible form of energy so they have enough energy to run away from predators, to run around with their friends and hopefully reproduce.
  5. 5. Lucy is quite happy chewing this hay. What she’s actually doing is crushing these long bits of fibre and there’s a piece of rye grass. Before she can swallow that and she’s going to swallow some food in a minute, we are going to see a bolus or a ball of food go down her throat. Here we are. There goes a ball of food down into her stomach. Between swallowing and her doing some poo, is about a forty-hour process.
  6. 6. If this is chewed incompletely before she swallows it, that is going to affect how much of this she can digest and gain energy to do all the things that Lucy is required to do. So we are going to take a look at what has happened to this food in this couple of minutes of our standing still here. This is called a gag and we use this as a professional horse dentist in order to hold the horse’s mouth open and do our job which is basically rasping sharp points off horses’ teeth.
  7. 7. What Lucy has done if we take a look at this food, she has wet it, mixed it with saliva and it actually smells quite sweet. You can see all these little short bits of fibre here. So what she has is a really effective food processing unit in her mouth. Those fibres went in, this long, and within the first couple of chews, she has made them this long and finally this long and even finer which is approximately the length of a piece of chaff.
  8. 8. So here we have a chaff cutting mechanism which evolved 60 million years ago to convert fibre into a digestible form. Where this fibre is finally broken down in the most effective place is the large intestine. Bacteria will help break this down and fatty acids will be released as part of that digestion process. Then we get the energy from this dried grass or hay. Her teeth, the fact she can chop this food up so finely to a point where it can be swallowed and digested, we know that her teeth are fairly functional before we even feel her teeth.
  9. 9. Here we have some whole oats with some corn and sunflower seed. We’ve done some research in Victoria at the University of Melbourne, looking at how horses eat and how horses eat different types of food whether it is grain or hay. Horses actually change their chewing motion according to what they eat. We’re going to hear some really funky noises out of Lucy’s mouth in a minute as she crushes these grains. In order for Lucy to digest these grains, she has to break this outer casing open.
  10. 10. If she swallows those grains whole, it will go through her digestive tract and not be digested at all. You will see whole grains in her droppings. Lucy looks pretty happy because she’s actually getting a sugar fix. The corn that was mixed with the oats is rich in starch and the corn is being mixed with saliva and in particular an enzyme called amylase and is getting converted to sugars before she swallows it. So if we have a look at this stuff, anyone who’s had Uncle Toby’s oats for breakfast ever, would know what this looks like.
  11. 11. It smells sweet. There we have the amylase mixing with the starches that she’s broken, all those fibres open and its ready to be digested and Lucy’s feeling happy. My job as a horse dentist is to simply rasp the parts of the horse’s teeth off that they can’t naturally wear off. Horses have what they call a three quarter bite. The lower jaw rotates against the upper jaw. In that grinding process of either breaking down hay, grass or grain,
  12. 12. they actually wear away the grinding surface of the teeth. The outside edges of the upper teeth get quite sharp, the inside edges of the lower teeth get quite sharp, we rasp those off and just help the horse more efficiently grind in that sideways motion. The sharp points can cause ulcers especially where your noseband on your bridle goes, if the noseband is too tight or if the teeth are quite sharp.
  13. 13. So it is important, for horse comfort, and for function as an eating mechanism that everything works properly. This is Lucy and we are going to start rasping Lucy’s teeth. The diet Lucy is on, she gets her teeth checked once a year. My job is to simply rasp off what Lucy can’t naturally wear off. So I just introduce this rasp to Lucy. These rasps are made of tungsten carbide steel which is a fairly hard substance. The other rasps are actually sharpened up with a diamond cutting wheel.
  14. 14. Horses’ teeth are the hardest structure in their body. They’re harder than their bones, so hard, that they actually slab fracture. The enamel is quite a brittle material even though it’s hard. It will shatter when it gets too long. There’s a point at which horse’s teeth get sharp and get no sharper, which is what happens in the wild. People often ask what happens in the wild. Most
  15. 15. wild horses, only live to be seven or eight years of age. There was a study done by the federal government looking at our brumbies as a feral nuisance and their life expectancy unfortunately is not that good. The white stuff that you can see on the rasp is actually sharp enamel points I’ve started to take off Lucy’s upper molars. It is important that you use an accredited and insured equine dentist and if not, a properly trained veterinarian.
  16. 16. If anyone comes on to your property to sedate your horse who is not a veterinarian, you are breaking at least two if not three laws. You may find that if something goes wrong that you probably will have no claim with insurance. It’s fairly rare that you need to get a horse sedated in order to do its teeth. In that case, legally it must be done by a properly trained veterinarian.
  17. 17. The situation where she was on a high grain diet, the harder you feed a horse, say if it gets two hard feeds a day like an eventer, a show horse or in some cases a racehorse, you’d need to check her teeth more often. Some racehorses are checked every eight to ten weeks their whole racing life because of the high grain diet. Most performance horses on two hard feeds you’d need to look at least twice a year. One of the many myths you’ll hear about horse dentistry is
  18. 18. is that lay dental practitioners like myself struggle to get up around the last sheet tooth, that’s where the first ulcer will appear. These tools were specifically designed to get up around that last sheet tooth on an unsedated horse, standing here quite relaxed. You can see it’s a fairly thin profile and there’s a special angle to get to that point exactly. Once again, the white material here is excess enamel, dentin and cementum which I have rasped off this mare’s mouth.
  19. 19. It is important to talk to your horse dentist about what you do with your horse. If your horse is going to wear a bit, the type of job that we need to do on their teeth is vastly different to say a brood mare who would never wear a bit. We need to change the shape of the teeth nearest the bit to make it as comfortable for the horse as possible while it is being either ridden or driven. If we have a look in Lucy’s mouth, you will see we have the upper jaw, the lower jaw and the tongue.
  20. 20. There is no room for a bit. So it is crucial that your bit fits, that it’s comfortable and your horse’s teeth are done appropriately. She’s got good bite, good occlusion and Lucy’s ready to be ridden today.
  21. 21. Visit our website if you need quality equipment and accessories for your horse.

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