Open Up and Say Zzz: Why Horse Dental Exams Require Sedation

Your veterinarian needs a good look into your horse’s deep, dark mouth to perform a proper dental exam. The answer? Proper sedation.

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Open Up and Say Zzz: Why Horse Dental Exams Require Sedation
Proper sedation allows a veterinarian to safely complete an equine dental exam. | Photo: Stephanie L. Church/The Horse

You can’t exactly promise your horse a fun sticker or a toy at the end of a dental visit to get him to behave. No, if you want a dental exam to be not only safe (for both horse and practitioner) but also worthwhile, sedation is a necessity.

“You need to get equipment back in the mouth if you’re going to do a complete dental exam and see all the structures, and you just can’t do that without sedating the horse,” said Jeff Reiswig, DVM, Dipl. AVDC (Equine), who founded Equine Veterinary Dental Services in Newark, Ohio.

Equipment includes a mirror and sometimes an endoscope, as well as a mouth speculum that holds the horse’s jaws apart, he said. “You need a quiet horse so you can see the detail. Without sedation they may throw their head, which makes it dangerous for the horse and veterinarian

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Passionate about horses and science from the time she was riding her first Shetland Pony in Texas, Christa Lesté-Lasserre writes about scientific research that contributes to a better understanding of all equids. After undergrad studies in science, journalism, and literature, she received a master’s degree in creative writing. Now based in France, she aims to present the most fascinating aspect of equine science: the story it creates. Follow Lesté-Lasserre on Twitter @christalestelas.

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