A cadaver study involving 400 Australian horses found that 93.8 percent had one or more dental abnormality.
Just 15 horses among the 400 were found to have no abnormalities.
The assessments were conducted after death at a Queensland abattoir.
The most common abnormalities observed were sharp enamel points (55.3 percent) and hooks (43 percent). The great majority of hooks were found in the cheek teeth.
Wave mouth was found in 25.5 percent of the horses, while 22.3 percent were found to have periodontal pockets, which can trap food. Exaggerated transverse ridges were found in 13.5 percent of the horses.
The highest frequency of dental diseases and abnormalities were found in horses estimated to be 11-15 years old, with 97.5 percent affected.
“Common abnormalities were found in all groups and the prevalence increased with age,” Tum Chinkangsadarn and his colleagues from the School of Veterinary Science at the University of Queensland reported in the Australian Veterinary Journal.
“This study suggests that all horses should have regular complete dental examinations to detect and treat dental disorders in order to limit more severe dental pathologies later in life,” they concluded.
The age of the horses in the study were estimated at 1-30. They were thoroughbreds, standardbred, stock horse and mixed/cross-breeds. Sick or severely injured horses were not accepted for slaughter.
The researchers said dental diseases were common oral disorders in horses. Surveys, they said, have reported that 10 percent of cases presented to equine practices in England were dental related, while dental cases were among the top five medical problems in adult horses in the United States.
“Many studies have recommended annual dental examinations for horses aged more than 15 years, but our study shows that horses in all age groups had abnormalities that can be easily identified during a complete routine dental examination, with minimal equipment,” the researchers reported.
“The interval of dental examination and treatment will vary with individual horses because of different work discipline, diet, congenital or acquired abnormalities, practice experience and equipment used.
“We conclude that preventive dentistry introduced from a young age could correct the dental problems often missed by the horse owner and therefore prevent problems becoming clinically significant.”
They said further studies were required into the relationship between each dental abnormality and its clinical consequences.
Chinkangsadarn, commenting on the study, said the findings pointed to benefits for horses in having twice-yearly dental checkups, which would allow intervention during the early stages of problems or disease.
He stressed the importance of complete and thorough dental examinations, adding that proper recording was essential.
Chinkangsadarn, T, Wilson, G, Greer, R, Pollitt, C, and Bird, P (2015), An abattoir survey of equine dental abnormalities in Queensland, Australia. Aust Vet J, 93, 189–194. doi: 10.1111/avj.12327.
The abstract can be read here.