Repairing Jaw Fractures in the Field (AAEP 2011)

Despite their ghastly appearance most jaw fractures can be repaired relatively easily in a field setting.
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Nobody wants to find their horse with a bloody mouth, displaced teeth, and broken, displaced jaw bones. But despite their ghastly appearance most jaw fractures can be repaired relatively easily in a field setting, noted one veterinarian at the recent American Association of Equine Practitioners convention.

David A. Wilson, DVM, MS, Dipl. ACVS, professor of equine surgery at the University of Missouri-Columbia, described the steps in one method of repairing rostral (closest to the front of the nose) jaw and cheek fractures in the field. He presented on the subject at the convention, which was held Nov. 18-22 in San Antonio, Texas.

"Picture a young horse, chewing on things like they always do," Wilson began. "And then, all of a sudden, they end up way over there. A few minutes later, they’re thinking ‘Damn, I wish I’d opened my mouth first.’ " A number of things can cause a horse to flee, even if his teeth are still clamped on a solid object, as Wilson alluded to, and the end result is often a fracture.

Horses, especially young ones, sustain mandible (jawbone) and maxilla (cheekbone) fractures in a number of ways, including biting and pulling back on a stationary object, crashing through or becoming entangled in a fence, and getting kicked by other horses. Although some fractures are evident, others might not be, he explained. Whether subtle or readily apparent, these horses often have signs of anorexia, difficulty eating, quidding (dropping chewed food), ptyalism (excessive salivation), halitosis (bad breath), incisor misalignment, pain and swelling at and around the injury site

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Erica Larson, former news editor for The Horse, holds a degree in journalism with an external specialty in equine science from Michigan State University in East Lansing. A Massachusetts native, she grew up in the saddle and has dabbled in a variety of disciplines including foxhunting, saddle seat, and mounted games. Currently, Erica competes in eventing with her OTTB, Dorado.

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