No. The only time we recommend withholding food is for an extended procedure such as an extraction.
We recommend not allowing your horse access to food for two hours after the dental procedures are completed. Horses that try to eat prior to being fully awake may swallow large amounts of food and choke. Also, tranquilizers slow down the digestive tract so eating too soon may lead to gas colic.
Some horses seem to be uncomfortable after dental work, especially those that resist and chew vigorously during the procedure. Horses that resent dental work can place significant forces on their TMJ and cheek muscles and become sore. We include an injection of flunixin meglumine (Banamine) with each float to alleviate any discomfort. The equilibration/floating procedure changes the way horses sense the pressures of chewing. Occasionally, the cheek muscles may tighten in response to equilibration and an adjustment of the jaw may be necessary.
Advance Equine Dentistry always has a veterinary technician or assistant available for all dental procedures. We request you catch and bring your horse to us, but we will handle your horse during the examination, sedation, leading the horse into the stocks, and dental procedures. Also, please do not touch, rub, or pet your horse once sedated. Any stimulation of a sedated horse tends to wake them up or cause a violent reaction that may injure the horse or owner.
We recommend not allowing your horse access to food for two hours after the dental procedures are completed. Horses that try to eat prior to being fully awake may swallow large amounts of food and choke. Also, tranquilizers slow down the digestive tract so eating too soon may lead to gas colic. Your horse should be kept separate from other horses until fully awake. Horses are acutely aware of their pecking order and may kick and bite a sedated horse that cannot defend itself.
All horses must be sedated to conduct a thorough examination. Even the best-behaved horse will not allow us to place a dental mirror in the back of the mouth. It does not matter how good the horse has seemed in the past, sedation is a must.
The tranquilizers used for dentistry are extremely safe, but none come without some degree of risk. We conduct a physical examination of every horse prior to sedation to detect any underlying health issues. Our preference is not to sedate pregnant mares. If the client wishes to have dental procedures performed on a pregnant mare we recommend it done between 4-7 months. Since dentistry is typically an elective procedure we recommend resolving any current health problems prior to dental work. We also do not like to sedate horses if the air temperature is below the high 30’s since tranquilizers may affect their ability to regulate body temperature.
Electricity is a requirement. We do have many extension cords that allow us to access most electrical outlets. If there are no electrical outlets available, the client must provide a generator.
We require a dry and relatively flat, level area of sufficient size to accommodate our portable stocks, cart, headstand, and horse. We can usually set up outside if the conditions allow. Most barns work if there is an average sized aisle. The aisles in large barns normally allow us to set up and still have room for horses to pass by. Wash stalls are usually not large enough for us to work in.
The number of horses we can work on in a day is dependent on numerous factors. If we set up at one site and have worked on the horses in the past, we can usually see 6-9 horses. If we are seeing new horses, we are probably limited to 4-6 because we do not know the condition of the teeth or sedation requirements. Also, every time we have to move reduces the numbers we can treat. Sometimes Dr. Marx and Dr. Sanderson can be scheduled together so that doubles the numbers.
That is highly unlikely with a knowledgeable practitioner. Studies have shown that it requires at least 30 seconds of constant contact on a single tooth with an unirrigated motorized instrument to raise the tooth temperature enough to potentially cause thermal trauma. During a routine/average float continual contact on a single tooth is usually only 1-2 seconds. Irrigated (water cooled) motorized instruments, like those used by Advance Equine Dentistry, virtually eliminate the possibility of thermal trauma. Motorized instruments have been widely in use for 25 years or more. In the hands of a knowledgeable and skilled practitioner they are safe, more precise, and more effective than a hand float. Statements to the contrary are misinformed. Ask any individual who makes such statements to provide objective data to support their perception.
Motorized instruments are often erroneously referred to as power tools. This is an unfortunate mistake because it sometimes makes horse owners uncomfortable. Motorized instruments are perfectly safe to use on your horse’s teeth. Think of your own dental work. Have you ever had a filling? If you have, was a high-speed drill used to prepare your tooth for the filling?
That drill operates at 400,000-500,000 rpm, that’s 40-250 times faster than most motorized equine dental instruments. Was your tooth damaged by the high-speed drill? Also, consider that horse teeth are much more resilient than human teeth. We sometimes hear the concern that motorized instruments may take off too much tooth. The instrument does not remove the tooth material, the operator does. An individual that is not competent with a motorized instrument may remove too much tooth, that individual may also remove too much with a hand float. The instrument does not determine tooth removal, the operator does. A skilled practitioner can also be more precise and gentler with motorized instrument. This is particularly important on geriatric teeth which tend to be slightly mobile.
Many non-veterinarian dental care providers (NVDCP’s) offer high quality equine dental care. In Colorado, NVDCP’s may legally provide limited equine dental services. An NVDCP may float your horse’s teeth with motorized instruments while under the direct supervision of a veterinarian or with hand instruments under the indirect supervision of a veterinarian (there are additional administrative requirements). NVDCP’s may not prescribe/administer/distribute sedation, it is ILLEGAL and unsafe. Also, NVDCP’s may not perform oral surgery, extractions are considered oral surgery.
NVDCP’s are not “dentists” any more than a human dental hygienist is a dentist. The mere act of working on a tooth does not make an individual a dentist. The title of “Dentist” requires a degree from an accredited medical/veterinary/dental institution. The quality of the education attained by NVDCP’s varies greatly as does the length of their programs. They may be only a few days duration to several months long. None of these programs are accredited by an outside agency which means the course content is completely up to the originator/instructor. The curriculum may be based on strong scientific and medical data or on complete rubbish because there is no oversight. Graduates of these courses often receive an unsubstantiated and unaccredited title such as “Equine Dentist” or “Equine Dental Specialist” of which they are neither. The educational and practical requirements for an actual equine dental specialist takes about 11 years. This can be very confusing to the horse owner, especially when some NVDCP’s allow themselves to mistakenly be called “Doctor” and fail to correct this misperception.
A competent dental practitioner begins with a thorough examination, which requires at a minimum; 1) adequate sedation, 2) full mouth speculum, 3) bright light, 4) dental mirror. Some forms of significant dental disease present with very subtle or obscure physical signs and require the items listed above for diagnosis. If these four items are not included in your horse’s dental examination dental disease may be overlooked and there is reason to question the quality of the dental care. Think about your own dental care. If your dentist “performs” an examination without having you open your mouth, does not use a light or a mirror, rubs a finger on your teeth, then says your teeth are fine, what would you think of the quality of that examination? A competent practitioner begins with a thorough examination. Do not hesitate to request the practitioner show you the teeth (incisors and cheek teeth) and explain the treatment plan during the examination. Also, request to see the teeth when the work is completed. If the practitioner does not want to show and explain the examination findings, treatment plan, and finished work, or if the process does not make sense to you, consider finding a different dental practitioner.
Scheduling an appointment usually takes at least two weeks. During our busy season, it may take a month or more so please call well in advance to schedule the day you want. Weather cancellations are possible. For outdoor appointments rain, and sometimes even very strong winds, may result in a cancellation. In the winter months’ appointments, will be cancelled if the temperature is below 37-38 degrees unless there is a heated barn. Hazardous road conditions from snow accumulation, blowing snow, or ice may also lead to cancellation. Mountain appointments are not made between November 15 – March 15, due to the high probability of weather cancellation unless there is a heated barn available. Please remember that equine dentistry is almost always an elective procedure so schedule at an appropriate time of the year.
The average examination and float is $240, including sedation. Some horses will cost more and some will cost less depending on the condition of their teeth and sedation required. The ranch call fee is additional and depends upon travel time. The minimum fee is $50. If there is more than one owner at a single location this fee is divided among them.
Ideally, horses up to nine years of age should be examined every 6-8 months and those over nine yearly. Horses with significant dental issues may require more frequent care.
As a general guideline horses, should have a dental examination/float yearly, although some should be seen more frequently. Horses often do not show signs of dental problems until they become advanced. Just because your horse may not show symptoms does not mean there are not issues. Possible indications your horse should be examined are dropping feed, abnormal or difficult chewing, excessive salivation, loss of body condition, large or undigested feed particles in manure, head tossing, fighting the bit, foul odor from the mouth or nostrils, nasal discharge, swelling or draining tracts of the face or jaw.