Please do not hesitate to contact me via phone or email for any additional questions.
Does my horse need a specialized dental veterinarian?
Every horse will benefit from the care that a specialized veterinarian can provide. As you know, it is much better to prevent a problem than try and correct it once it's well established. A horse's mouth is no exception. A veterinarian with focused skills in this area is better able to find potential problems early and head them off before they become serious. Current research is showing that equine teeth that function normally and have normal wear patterns actually wear more slowly and therefore last longer! This means that the better a horse's teeth are maintained, the longer into his geriatric years his teeth will remain effective for grinding long stemmed roughage, the staple of the equine diet.
The dental focused veterinarian is best able to maintain the delicate balance that will keep your horse's mouth healthy and fully functional. At the other end of the spectrum, when severe problems have developed or a disease state is present, a specialized veterinarian with vast dental experience provides fast, correct diagnosis and can treat the problem most efficiently, often with minimally invasive procedures. The knowledge, techniques, and equipment required to perform a thorough dental exam, make a proper diagnosis, perform corrections and treatments are difficult to acquire and time consuming to master.
As specialization is becoming more and more common in other areas of medicine, so too is the case in veterinary medicine. I believe it is unrealistic to expect an equine veterinarian to be an expert in all aspects of the field. The knowledge base is far too extensive and growing constantly. The improved health and performance that a veterinarian with specialized training can bring your horse through proper dental care is impressive. You will see and feel the difference.
Equine dentistry is part of the practice of veterinary medicine. The teeth, the oral structures are all living tissues. Damage to these tissues can significantly impact your horse's health. Only a veterinary medical professional has the knowledge to safely treat this important aspect of your horse's health. You are your horse's first line of defense and his only advocate. Know your care provider's qualifications.
How often does a horse need a dental examination?
Following a horse's first thorough examination and correction, the majority will require annual follow-ups to maintain his/her mouth in optimum functioning order. A few will require more frequent attention, rarely more than every six months. A horse requiring major initial corrections may be best served if the work is broken into two or three sessions a few months apart. Some performance horses will appreciate touch-ups every 6-9 months to keep them comfortable. Horses under the age of 5 benefit from examination every 6-9 months because their teeth are erupting faster than a mature horse and their mouths are undergoing fast and dramatic change as they acquire their permanent teeth.
What should I expect when you examine my horse?
There must be a safe place for your horse, yourself and the veterinarian. I prefer a clean stall with an even floor and fresh bedding. Good footing for your horse is very important. A source for hot water and a cold water hose along with a nearby source of electricity are also necessary. See the question on facilities for further details.
I perform a brief general physical exam and will discuss any significant medical history or current health concerns with you before I begin. If your horse is having trouble eating, I may like to watch him eat hay or grain before proceeding with the oral exam. I will sedate your horse with a safe and effective combination of intravenous sedatives. He/She will get very groggy, may sway a bit or even stumble once or twice. This is all normal and desirable. The vast majority of horses stand quite well with my drug combinations. It is EXTREMELY rare for a horse to lose his balance and fall. However, my requirement for a safe work environment ensures that in the unlikely event of a fall, the horse will not be injured and has good footing to quickly regain his feet. Once the horse has reached the desired plane of anesthesia, I apply an instrument called a full mouth speculum. This instrument holds your horse's mouth open safely and without pain. With it, I can see and feel all the way to the back of the mouth. Once I've made my initial assessment, I can give you a tour of your horse's mouth from over my shoulder. We discuss the strong points and the weak points and what can be done to make his/her mouth as close to normal as possible. If you agree with my suggestions, I begin working. My handling technique allows me to work with your horse safely and efficiently without assistance. It is safest for you to be outside the stall. This way you can watch my work as it progresses! I use a combination of motorized tools to best address your horse's needs. My motorized equipment includes both rotary and reciprocating instrumentation. My selection of instruments allows me pin point accuracy. I can address each portion of each tooth individually as I work to make the whole mouth a smoothly functioning unit.
When my work is complete, most patients are beginning to emerge from the sedation. If a horse has a particular sensitivity to the sedative drug I choose, and seems groggy for a bit too long, I can use another medication to reverse the sedative effects for faster recovery. Most of my patients are ready to move as soon as I am finished with the work and most can be loaded into a trailer within 20 minutes. Many owners are concerned about hauling a horse that has been recently sedated. There is no danger in hauling a horse short distances with a little residual sedation. Please make sure there is no hay in the trailer to prevent the likelihood of choking.
You will receive a detailed chart outlining your horse's mouth before and after the corrections, a discussion of the procedures, a list of recommendations, and a summary of charges.
What kind of facilities will you need in order to care for my horse(s)?
Most of the time I work in a stall with my equipment just outside in the aisleway. I prefer not to work in wash stalls or grooming areas as they can be dangerous for sedated horses. I must be able to get the patient, myself and all my equipment out of the weather. I can also work in large open areas as long as they have level, safe footing and they are totally under cover and have no likely hazards. I need at least a small amount of clean absorbent bedding to soak up mouth wash water. I need access to electricity and a bucket of water for my instruments. My lighting needs are minimal. Actually, it is easier for me to work in low lighting than bright sunlight.
How long does the procedure take?
It varies from horse to horse, but in general, 30-45 minutes per horse is necessary. Horses with serious abnormalities, those who are extremely resistant, or those requiring additional diagnostics will take longer.
Is sedation really necessary?
Yes. Leaders in the field agree that it is not possible to perform a thorough examination and odontoplasty without substantial sedation. While most procedures are not painful, even routine work is cause for apprehension for most horses. The sedation is extremely safe and allows him/her to relax so that the work can be done correctly, efficiently and without undue stress to the horse.
What can I expect after the procedure?
Your horse can get in a trailer and haul for short distances (less than @3 hours) within about 30 minutes of completing routine work. Horses should not be ridden after sedation. Under most circumstances, horses may be ridden as normal the following day. Your horse should not eat hay or grain for at least 1-2 hours after a sedation and dental procedure. Once they are fully awake, most horses never miss a meal. I am available and happy to address any concerns at any time following the procedure.
Fees and Payment:
The cost varies significantly from horse to horse based on the necessary treatments for each individual. Fees for Routine Dental Exam and Prophylactic Care include a physical exam, with special emphasis on the head and mouth, sedation, and occlusal adjustment (floating) of sharp enamel points. These fees also include a complete dental charting of your horse's dental condition both before and after treatment, recommendations for future dental work and recommendations on any other health care issues. Additional treatments or diagnostics that may be required such as; periodontal disease treatment, extractions, radiographs etc., are priced separately.
Set Up fees vary according to geographic location and the number of horses at one facility. They are usually split between the number of owners present. I encourage groups to coordinate scheduling to benefit a larger number of horses.
Payment is required at the time of service. I accept cash, checks, Visa/Mastercard/Amex, or CareCredit. I do require a credit card to be placed on file with our office. Please see our payment policy here.