A dental examination is much more than just parting the lips to look at the incisors and putting a finger in the mouth to feel the edges of the first few cheek teeth.
After a brief history and observation of the horse for general condition, a physical exam is done including auscultation of the heart and lungs, and a weight
tape used for more accurate dosing of sedatives. The incisors are examined for approximate age, then observed for bite, irregular wear at an
angle or in a “smile” shape, and for irregular surface as well as inflammation above the teeth.
The other horses make fun of Dash's head gear
In a relaxed horse, the lateral excursion of the jaw may be evaluated by moving the jaw from side to side with the mouth closed. A full mouth
speculum is then inserted and gradually opened, usually in the sedated horse, and the horse’s head is placed on a head stand or in a metal framed
dental halter suspended from overhead. The examiner will use a head lamp to conduct a complete dental evaluation of the lips, cheeks, tongue,
the bars, palate, and gums as well as the teeth themselves. The examiner will look for abnormal conformation and wear like hooks, ramps
and steps, for retained baby teeth in young horses, abnormal spaces that pack feed, fractured or missing teeth, and decay in the center of teeth.
A dental mirror aids in observing the periodontal tissues around the back cheek teeth. The sharp enamel points on the outside of the upper arcade and
inside of the lower arcade of cheek teeth are observed and ulcers and lacerations may be seen on the cheeks adjacent to the points. Buildup of plaque
around canines and corner incisors may be noted.
The information gained from the dental history and examination will give the veterinarian a plan for dental procedures.