Cheek teeth fractures can lead to a number of unpleasant problems in the horse, from chewing discomfort to bad breath, and they tend to show up most often in the upper jaw. Sometimes these fractures can even go undetected, say researchers who recently completed a survey-based study of horses in Ireland and Great Britain.

Professor Paddy Dixon, MVB, PhD, MRCVS, from the Division of Veterinary Clinical Sciences, University of Edinburgh, a co-author on the retrospective study, said the scientists’ aim was to determine the nature, clinical effects, and prevalence of cheek teeth fractures in the general equine population in Britain and Ireland. Questionnaires were dispersed to experienced members of the British equine Veterinary Association (BEVA) Dental Working Party and BEVA-certified equine dental technicians. Nineteen surveys were returned, which described 147 horses with 182 cheek teeth fractures.

“This study found that cheek teeth fractures occurred in 0.07-5.9% of examined horses and the majority of fractures (73%) were identified in the maxillary (the upper jaw) cheek teeth,” reported Dixon.

Serious problems associated with cheek teeth fractures include anorexia or weight loss and buccal (pertaining or directed toward the cheek) food impaction. Despite their rarity, cheek teeth fractures can be associated with quidding (dropping food from the mouth while eating), behavioral problems (including biting), and halitosis. Occasionally, infection from the fractured cheek tooth can cause severe infection of the supporting bones and sinuses, noted by bony swellings and nasal discharge.

While clinical signs were observed in many affected horses, almost 40% were asymptomatic. Cheek teeth fractures in asymptomatic horses were identified only during routine dental procedures.

Cheek teeth fractures treated by veterinarians or equine dental te