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Free Equine Dentistry Research Collection

November 2016 by Horses and People Magazine

Proficiency in equine dentistry is becoming a standard requirement in practice, and there has been significant progression in knowledge and techniques in recent years.

To support the continuing advancements in this field, the Equine Veterinary Journal has released a research collection of dentistry articles. Co-edited by Paddy Dixon and Vicki Nicholls the collection is free to all readers and coincides with the appointment of Vicki Nicholls as President of the British Equine Veterinary Association (BEVA).

Over the past 20 years, there have been significant advances in objective scientific dental research, underpinning progress in clinical treatments and enabling dentistry to be performed to a higher standard by many veterinarians.

Several equine associations, including BEVA and the American Association of Equine Practitioners, actively promote clinical training with structured practical courses and lectures in equine dentistry. Concurrently, the Royal College of Veterinary Surgeons has developed an advanced veterinary practitioner certificate in equine dentistry and the European and American Veterinary Dental Colleges have launched diplomas in equine dentistry at specialist level.

The new online collection comprises ten studies on physiology, disease, diagnosis and treatment techniques in equine dentistry. It gives veteriniarns convenient and free access to some of the most important current research in the United Kingdom:

  1. A study of the comparative analyses of tooth wear in free-ranging and captive wild equids indicates captive animals experience less abrasion-dominated tooth wear and suggests factors leading to focal overgrowth (‘hook’) formation, in particular feeding height, should receive special attention.
  2. Ancillary diagnostic techniques, such as nasal endoscopy, sinoscopy and skull radiography, enables identification of the specific sinus compartments that are most commonly affected, concludes a long-term study of equine paranasal sinus disease.
  3. The thermal effects on teeth of three different motorised dental instruments suggest they have the potential to seriously damage equine pulp if used inappropriately. Higher speed motorised dental instruments should be used for less time and teeth should be water-cooled during or immediately after instrument use to reduce the risk.
  4. Local anaesthesia is often needed for invasive procedures, while the equine dental patient is under standing sedation. An intra-oral approach can be used effectively to desensitise the inferior alveolar nerve with minimal complications, suggests one of the studies.
  5. Two studies explore the relevance of Computed Tomography (CT) for accurate diagnosis of apical (tooth root) infection in maxillary and mandibular cheek teeth. They conclude that CT is useful for identifying deposition and defects of mineralised material, but of less use for identifying inflammation and tissue destruction, however overall helpful in diagnosing apical infections.
  6. The functional orthodontic correction of overjet or overbite in foals is advocated as effective in a study that used the technique with minimal complications. It was noted often more than one implant is required and the treatment should be started as early as possible.
  7. A long-term study on the clinical effects of the mechanical widening of cheek teeth diastemata for the treatment of periodontitis concludes it is an effective treatment for severely affected horses, but it is potentially invasive and may require repeated treatments.
  8. There are several causes of chronic unilateral nasal discharge and one of the studies explains why a recently described disease of the nasal conchal bullae could be a culprit. Clearance of empyema within these bullae is unlikely to occur through lavage of the paranasal sinuses alone. Where necessary, fenestration of the bulla allows physical removal of infected material. This study also clarifies the commonly used term ‘ventral conchal bullae’ which is anatomically incorrect - the correct name is the maxillary septal bulla (MSB).
  9. Equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis is an infrequent and under-diagnosed form of severe dental disease of older equids. All teeth, and particularly the incisors, should be examined for signs of gingivitis and hypercementosis, suggests one of the studies. Subsequently, they should be radiographed for early diagnosis and management.

Professor Celia Marr, Editor of the Equine Veterinary Journal says, “Care of the horse’s teeth is fundamental to good health. To this end, a strong working knowledge of equine dentistry should be seen as an essential cornerstone for every equine practitioner. This diverse collection has the convenience of being easily accessible, online and in one place to help keep veterinarians fully abreast of the excellent research currently being conducted in the United Kindom.” 

Vicki Nicholls, incoming president of BEVA, continues, "Advances in equine dentistry continue to gather pace, and it has been a pleasure and privilege to work with Paddy Dixon, collating the most current dental research that will be relevant to all equine practitioners with any level of expertise.”

The equine dentistry collection is available free online here.