Horse Dentistry


I would like to take a moment of your time to introduce myself and thank  Dr. John Haffner, DVM for teaching me how to use a power float and recommending Tom Allen, DVM 1AED/C Manual of Equine Dentistry.  Dr. John Haffner awakened a thirst for knowledge while teaching me Equine Dentistry for which I will always be thankful.  I went to Texas to continue my education under Randy Riedinger, who developed the "Riedinger Procedure" to correct Parrot Mouth in horses, and from there I went to Glenns Ferry, ID, where I had the privilege of meeting and studying under Dale Jeffery, MEqD, who gave me a greater appreciation of the importance of proper Equine dental care. 

Dentistry has come a long way in the last twenty years and for those thirsting for knowledge and equilibration of their horses I would love to sit down and discuss current techniques to improve your horses' performance and overall health and well being.

This profession has gone beyond the current practice of buccal and lingual edges.  If you would be interested in learning more and improving the all around comfort, life and performance of your companion please feel free to contact me.

I will teach the owners and/or trainers while the horse is being balanced, what to look for and how to inspect their horse to prevent malocclusions that impair the health and performance of their horse.

Many horse owners and even experienced performance horse trainers, fail to relate behavioral or performance problems that may be associated with dental malocclusions.

A horse that is in pain will not perform to its full potential.  Tail wringing, head tossing, fussing with the bit, running backwards, rearing, unexplained switching to right brain (temper fits) all can be dental related.

It is our goal to minimize malocclusions by early identification and correction.  When a horse is performing and saliva is flowing freely, over its face and rider, there is a pretty good chance that the horse can not swallow.  A horse produces three to seven gallons of saliva a day.  When the bit is in its mouth the tongue presses against the palate, the horse can't swallow and therefore saliva drips from its lips.  With proper dental care this can be corrected thereby improving the comfort and performance.

Common practice in the industry is a more aggressive bit and cavesson.  When this happens we force the mucus membrane (soft cheek tissue) into the Buccal points.  That is a good way to cause undue pain and get a negative reaction.  This too can easily be corrected allowing your horse to be more in tuned with the performance task at hand.

We are all aware of our TMJ but little thought goes into the amount of pain and discomfort in the horse's TMJ caused by an improper table angle, ramp, hooks, waves, or other malocclusions commonly found in performance and trail horses.  We have domesticated the horse and therefore have to compensate for what nature takes care of in the wild.

The Hyoid Apparatus is a group of bones that could be considered some of the most important in the body.  They are directly involved in taste, balance, hearing, and feeling.  There is a high percentage of some type of fracture, ossification, or degeneration of the lower Hyoid bones and joints caused in part by people not understanding the damage they are doing while playing with the tongue (having no knowledge of the head and neck Hyoid Apparatus or its function).

The Ceratohyoid bones are intended to open and close in a caudal direction and hyper-extension of these joints can cause excessive damage.  Whether you pull the tongue or the horse pulls it away from you the damage is the same.  This is very often done by pulling forward on the tongue during examinations, dental procedures, or tongue ties for racing.  If possible the tongue should never by manipulated by anyone regardless of your intentions.  Ear twitching and tongue pulling should be the top two out of ten things not to do to a horse.

It is imperative that caudal pressure from the tongue upon the epiglottis be kept to a minimum.  This can be accomplished by the use of proper bit seats.  Proper bit seats not only allow the bit to ride higher and the tongue to lay flatter, but they also help in mastication, prevent pinching of the tongue and cheek between the bit and number six premolars, retard the development of rostal hooks and ramps.  Air flow can also be increased by alleviating rearward tongue pressure upon the soft palate and epiglottis.

Dental cysts within the nasal passage can reduce air flow as much as 60 percent, creating heat and trauma.  Pressure from developing permanent teeth upon the nerves of the infraorbital foramen can affect meridians of the scapula (shoulder blade) and the anterior portion of the front legs of the horse.  Dental cysts of the mandible affect the meridians of the TMJ, traveling to the point of the shoulder and along the under side of the horse to the stifle, then down the anterior portion of the back leg through the hoof.

Table angles of both molars and incisors are imperative to good equine dentistry.  The molars of the horse MUST be corrected before incisor correction can take place.  If the mandible is restricted and can only move half as far as normal the teeth will wear out twice as fast. Several of the malocclusions that aren't addressed in the floating of points are:  waves, sheared tables, protruding molars, hooks, ramps, and accentuated transverse ridges, to name a few.  Sooner or later the horse can't take the severe pain any longer and will react.

Unerupted and sharp canine teeth can often be a problem for the horse.  If the canines of a horse over five years old aren't erupted they should be elevated to allow the gum to assume proper position around the tooth.

If the temporalis and masseter muscles are enlarged on the far side and the near side shows atrophy with heat in both TMJs  there is a good chance that the near side table is sheared or blocked.

Learn to read your horse's eye and body language for signs of fear, frustration, anger, confusion, pain and other indications that may lead to an action of the horse's part.  They will tell us pretty much everything we just need to learn to listen.  For the most part there are no wrong horses, just uninformed people.

We chart every horse, balance for equal pressure of their TMJ, molar table, and incisors and correct all malocclusions for better performance and a happier, healthier horse and rider.

Ron Johnson, Equine Dentist

Dedicated to the Health of the Horse

(615) 708-0614