The goal of equine dentistry is to preserve teeth whenever possible, but sometimes that broken or rotten tooth just has to go before it causes more problems such as infection of the sinuses or jawbone. However, before deciding to extract a horse’s tooth, owners and veterinarians must consider a number of important factors, noted a Cornell University researcher in a recent presentation to practitioners.

The overall goal of extraction should be to “keep the horse comfortable and functional,” noted Jennifer Rawlinson, DVM, Dipl. AVDC, in her session at the 2012 American Association of Equine Practitioners convention, held Dec. 1-5 in Anaheim, Calif., But first she explained that the extraction should serve one or more of the following purposes:

  • To help the horse achieve optimal mastication (chewing);
  • To enable the horse to maintain a healthy weight; 
  • To support the horse’s performance;
  • To prevent oral pain and pathology (tissue damage); or
  • To treat oral pain and pathology.

Rawlinson said veterinarians must also consider tooth anatomy and any existing pathology involving the tooth or surrounding tissues, such as externally visible fractures, enamel decay, tooth erosion, or gingival disease.

However, she said, most horses with dental pathology exhibit no obvious, outward signs. This emphasizes the importance of performing regular, comprehensive oral examinations using sedation, a full-mouth speculum, and a good light source, she said.

Because dental disease sufficient to cause weight loss is usually quite severe, Rawlinson recommended that veterin