Cause: jaw and dental conformation, lack of fiber in diet and increased concentrates, lack of routine dental care, dental pain.
Signs: dysmastication (quidding), loss of weight or poor condition, abnormal bitting behavior, soft tissue damage and ulceration, particularly of the buccal mucosa.
Diagnosis: overgrowths of the buccal aspects of the maxillary teeth and, to a lesser extent, the lingual aspect of the mandibular teeth on full oral examination. Extra- and intraoral palpation. Dental mirror or oroscope will identify various degrees of mucosal trauma and the extent of the overgrowths Dental examination. Increased molar table angles (angle of occlusion) to an extent where lateral excursion of the jaw is reduced/locked.
Treatment: removal of overgrowths – full dental equilibration over staged dental reductions to slowly return the angle of occlusion to normal molar table angles of 12-18 degrees.
Prognosis: guarded to fair.
Pain on eating with dropping of food from the mouth (quidding) Dysmastication.
In chronic cases, loss of weight or condition.
Bitting or head-carriage problems.
Severe oral pain and dysmastication.
May be more common in countries where there is limited access to a fiber diet.
Middle-aged to older horse.
Costs of treatment which may be repetitive and involve extractions/diastema, etc.
Routine dental care.
The maxillary arcade of cheek teeth is 23-30% wider than the mandibular arcade at any point (anisognathism).
An anatomic survey has reported the range of the normal occlusal angle for the cheek teeth to be much more variable than was originally thought. Individual horses may be predisposed to this condition due to their jaw and dental conformation.
Although this condition is often thought to be more common in stabled horses, recent reports have confirmed free-living horses have as many enamel points as those that are stabled.
Lack of fiber diet and increased diet of concentrates.
As the horse masticates, the mandible is lowered and is then raised in a dorsal movement, during which it circumducts from the buccal to lingual aspects.
The mandibular teeth occlude in an axial direction and a grinding action occurs as their occlusal surfaces shear over each other. This is known as the “power-stroke”.
Due to the anisognathism in the equine mouth, only one molar arcade is in occlusion during each masticatory stroke.
The temporomandibular joint permits free lateral movement and a degree of rostro-caudal movement. As the horse lowers its head to graze, the mandible drops and moves rostrally, and at this point normal occlusion would be expected.
Pathology that limits lateral jaw movement can result in a gradual increase in the table angle of occlusion. Over time this may lead to dysmastication and further uneven wear on the occlusal surfaces. Horses eating concentrated or pellet feeds have a reduced grinding action compared to forage feeds (such as grass or hay) Resulting in a shorter lateral to midline stride of mandibular to maxillary occlusion.
Overgrowths on the lateral buccal cingulae of the maxillary arcades can become particularly sharp leading to ulceration to the oral mucosa of the cheeks and elsewhere with pain on mastication.
Further development of the overgrowths will worsen the occlusal angles to 45-50 degrees when the condition is termed shear mouth. In this situation, the lateral overgrowths stop any lateral masticatory movement, only a scissor-like action is possible, and this exacerbates the problem further.
Examination with a dental mirror Dental examination or oroscope will identify various degrees of mucosal trauma and the extent of the overgrowths.
Confirmation of diagnosis
Discriminatory diagnostic features
Routine dental examination.
Definitive diagnostic features
Oroscope and/or dental mirror examination.
Other causes of dysmastication and oral pain.
Other causes of oral mucosal damage.
Removal of overgrowths: staged correction of table angles with care to protect the secondary dentine.
This must be done gradually, particularly in severe cases. Gradual reductions, with several treatments over a long period (up to 6 months), may be necessary.
A whole variety of instrumentation is available for this, ranging from hand-held teeth rasps with different shaped heads, handles and blades (chipped or solid tungsten carbide), to electrically-operated rasps. These may be mains or battery driven with diamond-coated burrs and they are highly effective at removing molar overgrowths.
Mechanically operated burrs can easily overheat cheek teeth, and so they should always be used with water-cooling.