You bet they do!
You may think that's crazy talk. I mean how could a horse possibly need someone to fill their cavities, make crowns, and polish their teeth to a pearly white sheen?
Well, the job of an equine dentist isn't the same as the human version. It's very rare for a horse to have a cavity and they don't care what shade of white, or green...ha, their teeth are.
When a horse sees a dentist, it's primarily to create or maintain good contact between the upper and lower teeth, healthy mobility of the lower jaw, and to properly balance the mouth. All these elements are essential for your horse's comfort and neural communication with the rest of the body.
The cranial nerves run through a small space within the Temporal Mandibular Joint. We have a TMJ too. If it's out of whack or jammed up, we can suffer from headaches, a popping jaw, and it can even be a struggle to eat. Your horse is exactly the same. If your horse's TMJ is restricted, the signals sent by the brain to the rest of the body can be diminished. That means your horse may lose some sense of what his or her body is doing. That sounds terrible, right? It is and can have negative affect on your horse behavior, performance, and muscle condition. It can also increase anxiety, alter posture, and create gait abnormalities.
Wild Horses Don't Need Dentists
Well, they might. If we examined them we might find issues that dentistry would resolve and therefore improve their quality of life. Regardless of whether or not we have access to the wild ones, the horses in our backyards benefit from routine dental care for a variety of reasons.
Domestic horses wear headgear, bits, and other devices that can alter their dentition and cause pain if there are problems inside the mouth.
Our domestic horses live longer than their untamed cousins so they their teeth to last!
We ask our horse's to perform tasks that wild horses don't have to do.
Wild horses have access to and eat a wide variety of different foods.
Wild horses have different lifestyles and wear their teeth differently.
All Equine Dentistry is Not Created Equal
Several years ago I was introduced to a type of equine dentistry that was entirely new to me: Neuromuscular Equine Dentistry. What's unique about an neuromuscular equine dentist's approach is the focus is on the balance and function of the entire skull. The interplay of teeth, joints, muscles, connective tissue, and nerves are all considered. The purpose of the work done on the teeth is to make sure all the components work together harmoniously. This sets the horse up for years of excellent dental health, proper function, and maximum comfort.
From the Horse's Mouth
Unless we are paying close attention, problems with dental restriction or poor alignment may go unnoticed. They may also be misinterpreted as a bad attitude, resistance to rein pressure, bracing, bucking, rearing, bolting, refusing to take the bit, anxiety, spooking, tripping, tension, reluctance to move forward, one-sidedness, and more. Yep, these can all be caused or exacerbated when your horse is having tooth troubles.
Having regular Neuromuscular Equine Dentistry exams and treatments takes the guesswork out of this aspect of your horse's health, and the results truly speak for themselves. All the horses on our farm are seen by a Neuromuscular Equine Dentist, and my clients horses are on a regular schedule too.
Are you wondering if your horse is having dental difficulties? We are trained to assess dental balance and function. Contact us for a local or remote consultation.