I was disturbed at a recent clinic to hear the clinician state that the horse he was working with was sore in his lower back because of they way that his teeth had been rasped. Without looking into the horse’s mouth, he said that the use of power tools meant that he could only eat properly after six months had elapsed since the power tools take off too much of the grinding surface. This was particularly disconcerting for me as I we had the vet out to check and treat our horses’ teeth just a few days before.
More recently there has been an article on Facebook extolling the virtues of leaving the horses’ teeth as they are, after all, wild horses cope don’t they? Well, cope they might but most truly wild horses die through starvation if their teeth go wrong! Many must live with years of discomfort as their teeth deteriorate and their cheeks become ulcerated. They have access to a greater range of foodstuffs and fibre and don’t have to wear a bit or bridle. Watch any wildlife programme and the animals actually endure and suffer, a lot. It’s all about survival.
I mulled this over for a long time and then decided that I should bite the bullet and go to the very best expert that I know in the field of equine dentistry, Chris Pearce. This is what he told me:
“Power tools with a diamond disc (which we nearly all use now) leave a (microscopically) much more even surface than the rough deep gouges made with hand rasps - and they (power tools) leave what is known as a 'smear layer' over the dentine surface - this is around 100 microns thick and fills in the dentinal tubules that are exposed from rasping making the surface less porous and less painful - also the new breed of tools mean they are incredibly flexible and versatile and can easily and quickly deal with any overgrowths, sharp points etc under visual control (rather than the old fashioned hand rasping in the dark) - this means less trauma, a quicker job so less stress and much more accuracy in reduction in ONLY what needs to be reduced rather than carte blanche rasp everything down with a hand rasp - BUT of course, like a chainsaw in the wrong hands they can be very dangerous - and NO-ONE should be using power tools unless they are trained and qualified - it is a Category 2 procedure and only BAEDT members (or currently WWAED full members) should legally be using them. As a not very good example - most skilled cabinet makers / furniture craftsmen use motorised woodworking instruments - but in my hands they would make an awful mess of a piece of wood as I am not trained in how to use them - so I'd be safer with a small hacksaw and a hand file!!”Facebook: The Equine Dental Clinic Website: The Equine Dental Clinic Website
It may be that the clinician was basing their comments on some discredited American practices which bear no relation to what happens here. As horse owners we just want the truth and no matter how educated we become, we are all dependent on the advice of experts; it’s about knowing where to place your trust. It’s so easy when watching any horse person to swallow everything they say, hook, line, and power tool.