Removing Incisor Teeth in Horses, AAEP 2009

On occasion, certain dental problems in horses might call for removal of one or more permanent incisor teeth. At the 2009 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 5-9 in Las Vegas, Nev., the procedure for extracting equine incisor teeth was described by Bayard Rucker, DVM, of Professional Equine Dentistry in Lebanon, Va.

He listed the following problems as indications for incisor removal:

  • Tooth fracture;
  • Pulp horn exposure (exposure of the soft inner tooth material containing blood vessels and nerves, which can lead to inflammation and infection);
  • Displaced or misaligned teeth;
  • Severe periodontal disease;
  • Missing opposing tooth (unopposed tooth is removed to avoid the need for shortening and possibility of fracture).

If one of these conditions exists, a veterinarian experienced in equine dentistry can perform the necessary dental surgery to remove the tooth with the horse standing and sedated. Radiographs (X rays) taken before and after the procedure document tooth condition and position, and they help verify complete tooth removal.

Rucker described the surgery in detail, and noted that following the surgery, the horse should be kept from eating or drinking for at least four hours with a muzzle (a modified bucket attached to the halter will suffice).

To monitor the horse's progress after surgery without repeated visits, Rucker requests that clients send digital photos of the surgical site every day or two, and he schedules rechecks based on the photos. Stitches are removed after 10-14 days, but are removed earlier in about 90% of cases because of the wound reopening, he reported. Despite this common complication, he said the overall healing process is still good with the wound healing fully in four to eight weeks.

About the Author

Christy M. West

Christy West has a BS in Equine Science from the University of Kentucky, and an MS in Agricultural Journalism from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

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