Expert: Equine TMJ Changes Common, but Clinical Signs Rare

Temporomandibular joint changes could cause pain as well as behavior problems and poor performance in horses. Or not.
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Expert: Equine TMJ Changes Common, but Clinical Signs Rare
The temporomandibular joint, located on each side of the jaw, is almost solely responsible for allowing mammals to open and close their mouths. | Photo: iStock
Temporomandibular joint (TMJ) changes could cause pain as well as behavior problems and poor performance in horses.

Or not.

This small joint, located on each side of the jaw, is almost solely responsible for allowing mammals to open and close their mouths. Almost 40% of horses have anatomical anomalies in the joint attaching the jaw to the skull, said James Carmalt, MA, VetMB, MVetSc, PhD, FRCVS, Dipl. ABVP, AVDC, ACVSMR, ACVS, professor of equine dentistry, surgery, sport medicine & rehabilitation at the University of Saskatchewan’s Western College of Veterinary Medicine, in Saskatoon, Canada. Additionally, as horses age, they can accrue wear-and-tear changes characteristic of osteoarthritis (OA) in their TMJs—but that doesn’t mean those alterations are affecting them.

“We’ve been looking for clinical signs of TMJ disease (specifically OA) in horses for 15 years, and so far we’ve only confirmed two cases,” said Carmalt

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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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