So this week Danielle, one of our technicians, brought her horses into the clinic for their annual dentals. She sat down and told me afterwards all about how Dr. Lacher let her practice using the power tools on her own horses’ teeth and my was it fascinating! Danielle reports that even though she was nervous about practicing, she felt safe that she was in an equine clinic with access to state of the art equipment and facilities and most importantly, our veterinarian’s expertise!
Danielle brought her horses into the clinic early that morning and kept them in a paddock until Dr. Lacher and she had a free moment from their appointments. Once they were ready, they led her first horse “Bumper” into the shade of the barn and then inside the stocks. It was slightly warm that day, so they decided to turn on the fans not only for themselves but for the horse’s comfort. Dr. Lacher calculated the correct dose of sedation for Bumper, which Danielle explained to me, here at Springhill we use just enough sedation to make horses manageable enough to work on their mouths but not too much to make them sleepy for a long time. While sedated, the horse can also lean on the stocks all they like without moving away from us while we are trying to work inside their mouth, which is different in the field because we can’t carry that luxury with us.
While they were waiting for Bumper to get sleepy, they rinsed her mouth with an antiseptic agent which got rid of loose feed material in her mouth and minimized any bacteria. They also gave Bumper her vaccines and drew blood for a Coggins test while she was unaware.
“That’s one of the nice things about sedating a horse for dentals too,” Erica told Danielle, “we can take opportunities to vaccinate, draw blood, and clean a horse’s sheath and not only are they unaware at the time, they won’t remember anything once they are awake.”
After Bumper was sleepy enough, they placed the dental speculum in her mouth and opened it just wide enough to see in the back of her mouth. Then her head was rested on the head loop hanging from the ceiling, after which Danielle adjusted its height so it was comfortable for her to see in Bumper’s mouth. Even with Bumper’s mouth open it was still mighty dark inside her mouth, so Danielle donned a headlamp and looked around while Erica explained what steps she would take to correct Bumper’s mouth.
Bumper’s mouth didn’t need a lot of correcting because Danielle gets her teeth done every year, which she explained makes Bumper more comfortable and will ultimately prolong her life. After Erica inspected Bumper’s mouth with a mirror and pick she determined there weren’t any cavities or cracks in any of Bumper’s teeth. Then, she had Danielle grab the battery operated Makita and told her to take off the sharp points on the outside of Bumper’s top rows of teeth.
“To hold the tool parallel to her teeth, you need to lift up on the back of the Makita” Erica informed Danielle.
“Wow this is gonna work my shoulders for sure!” Danielle exclaimed.
Danielle told me that it was extremely difficult to keep the skinny tool on the side of her horse’s teeth because Bumper was moving her mouth the whole time and her cheeks kept pushing her tool away.
“That’s why we use a skinny tool for that area of her mouth, it’s hard enough already to get in there. Can you imagine not being able to see where that tool was going?” Erica said.
After this step Danielle was instructed to use the diamond burr power tool to work on the rest of Bumper’s mouth. She explained that it was difficult to keep the tool on her teeth, again because Bumper was moving her mouth so much.
“This takes some real skill!” she remarked “I don’t know how you and Dr. King make this look so easy!!”
“You have to learn to stabilize” Erica said, “Otherwise you’ll get pushed off her tooth every time.”
At this point Danielle’s arms were tired, “I feel like I’m not doing a very good job at getting all the way to the back of her mouth cause it’s so hard to see!”
Dr. Lacher then took over and polished up Bumper’s mouth. After making some corrections, Erica changed out power tools again to a smaller one with another diamond burr.
“We use that tool,” Danielle said “to place a bit seat in a horse’s mouth so pulling on the bit doesn’t pinch their gums. We also use that tool to make corrections to a horse’s incisors or front teeth.”
After releasing the speculum from Bumper’s mouth they checked to make sure her incisors were straight and then checked lateral excursion. Dr. Lacher uses lateral excursion to make sure the molars are working just right. Since all looked good, they rinsed her mouth once more to drain the tooth dust out and then waited a few minutes to lead her out of the stocks and back to the shade of her paddock while they grabbed her other horse to repeat the same process.
After all was done I had a new respect for our veterinarians doing dentals. Being able to see in a horse’s mouth makes all the difference for knowing the job was done right and using the power tools is faster and more accurate for sure. I feel confident my horse’s teeth are being done properly because my vets have all the tools they need to thoroughly examine their teeth and prevent small problems from becoming big ones.
Wow, now I’m wondering if I need to go to Newberry Animal Hospital for a kitty dental!
May your food bowl always be full and your litter box clean!