The rasping of sharp enamel points on teeth has been a routine part of equine dentistry for years, but is it necessary for the wellbeing of the horse?
British-based veterinarian Dr Graham Duncanson noted that there was little evidence to prove the true clinical significance of sharp enamel points. So, he undertook a study to look at associations between the presence of sharp enamel points on the cheek teeth rows and the presence of ulcers.
Duncanson, in a research presentation at the recent British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Congress, noted that sharp points on the upper teeth were thought to cause cheek ulcers and pain on external palpation of the cheeks. Sharp points on the lower teeth were thought to cause tongue-related ulcers.
Norfolk-based Duncanson examined the clinical records of routine dental examination performed by eight veterinary surgeons in a single first-opinion practice.
The presence of sharp enamel points were recorded, as were the presence of cheek and tongue ulcers, as well as whether external palpation of the cheeks resulted in any indications of pain.
The prevalence of sharp enamel on the cheek side of teeth points was 84.8% and the prevalence of sharp enamel points on the tongue side was 84.3%.
Five hundred and forty-eight horses, representing 6% of those in the study, had signs of pain on external palpation.
The prevalence of cheek ulceration was 5.9%. In contrast, only 0.2% of horses had visible tongue-related ulceration.
Mouth ulceration and pain on palpation were significantly associated with the presence of sharp enamel points on the cheek side of the teeth. Tongue-related ulceration was not significantly associated with sharp enamel points on the inside, or tongue side, of the teeth.
Duncanson said sharp enamel points on the cheek side of teeth were common and often resulted in pain and ulceration in this area. “Routine rasping would appear to be justified,” he said.
Sharp enamel points on the tongue side were also common, he said, but rarely caused tongue ulceration. The value of routine rasping of them on the tongue side was therefore questionable, he said.
A summary of Duncanson’s work has been published in the Equine Veterinary Journal as part of the proceedings from the BEVA Congress.
Duncanson, G. (2015), A Retrospective Dental Study on 5334 Horses in General Practice. Equine Veterinary Journal, 47: 10. doi: 10.1111/evj.12486_21
The abstract can be read here.