Most equestrians are familiar with systematic approaches. From which boot to apply to a horse’s leg first to which horse gets breakfast and dinner first, doing things “in order” quickly becomes habit, and when you break your habits sometimes you forget things.

To stay organized and carry out the most thorough exams possible, veterinarians often adopt systematic approaches, as well. And at the 2014 American Association of Equine Practitioners Convention, held Dec. 6-10 in Salt Lake City, Utah, Travis Henry, DVM, reviewed a five-component, stepwise approach to carrying out equine dental exams.

Henry, of the dental practice Midwest Equine Services, in Elkhorn, Wisconsin, explained that protocols used in other species focus on several specific aspects examined systematically to thoroughly evaluate areas of importance.

“Using a systematic approach to oral examination minimizes the risk of overlooking oral pathology and helps the veterinarian formulate an appropriate treatment plan for the patient,” he said.

Based on those protocols, Henry uses the following components in his dental exams:

  • Extra-oral examination;
  • Occlusion evaluation;
  • Periodontal tissue evaluation;
  • Evaluation of the endodontic structures of the clinical crown; and
  • Oral soft tissue evaluation.

Then, he described each part of the exam for veterinary attendees.

Extra-oral Examination Henry said this portion of the evaluation should be performed prior to sedation, which allows the practitioner to “more accurately evaluate symmetry and whether the patient reacts painfully t