Today was dentist day. All three horses were seen by our wonderful equine dentist Mike Fragale - I've been using him for a number of years and he's extremely good. He does use a little sedation (he brings a vet along for that), because he uses a speculum to be able to see and work on the molars. He also pays a lot of attention to the alignment of the incisors, and how the TMJs are working. He uses only hand tools - no power floats - and is careful not to err on the side of over-floating, particularly with senior horses whose teeth may no longer be erupting, and where over-floating can result in too smooth mouths that mean seniors cannot chew properly.
Pie and Red had good reports and had some small adjustments to incisors and some touch-up work on molars to remove sharp hooks and points. Pie also needed some scaling work done on his canines.
Dawn's mouth had some issues. In December of 2010, she had come in from turnout with blood gushing from her mouth, and when the vet came, she had a large cut across the middle of her tongue. We have no idea how this happened, but after that, she's had dental issues as well - 4 molars were also affected - three on the bottom and one on the top. One molar was sheered off flush with the gums, and three others were cracked from front to back down the middle. Over time, these teeth have gradually failed. Up to now, our dentist has been able to remove loose fragments and she's healed well.
Two of the bottom molars that have had fragments removed in past years now need further attention. One lower molar has a fragment that is leaning outwards - towards her cheek - and one on the other side is loose in its socket. No infection yet, which is good, and she's been able to eat well this winter and has maintained her weight. Simply having our dentist remove them isn't possible - they're attached to the roots of the teeth and at Dawn's age - she's 16 - there may be substantial roots still left in her jaw.
But before these molar fragments keep her from eating or result in infection, our dentist recommended that we consult a vet who is a dental surgeon about having the fragments, and the roots of the teeth, removed - our dentist has warned me every year that this would possibly happen at some point with Dawn. We've been referred to a highly regarded equine dental surgeon, who has developed some innovative procedures allowing dental surgery to be, in many cases, done through the mouth and under standing sedation - rather than through the exterior of the jaw under general anaesthetic.
A vet in the surgeon's practice is coming next Tuesday to do a consultation, including taking x-rays. And we'll see what we see, and assuming they agree that removal is warranted, we'll make a follow-up appointment (I hope at the barn rather than a vet clinic) for the extractions - I'm just glad that our dentist is so on top of things and that Dawn will be in expert hands.