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The link between dental cavities in children and sweets or sugary drinks is well known. But it has only recently been recognised that horses can suffer from dental cavities just like humans, although the causes are not so clear.
It seems there are two forms of the disease; one affecting the centre of the table of the tooth, on the grinding surface, and the other causing cavities in the sides of the teeth, where they meet the gums.
Scientists studied the teeth and mouths of more than 500 horses humanely killed at abattoirs in Sweden post-mortem. The history of the horses was obtained from their owners.
Overall, just over 6% of the horses examined showed signs of significant dental cavities in the sides of the teeth, but there were some interesting facts within this basic statistic.
Nearly all the cavities occurred in the last three molar teeth at the back of the mouth, which the scientists thought might be because the tube that discharges most of the saliva, a substance that protects teeth, into the mouth enters the mouth about halfway along the jaw.
They also found that young warmblood trotters suffered a higher incidence of this kind of tooth decay. Rather than this being a breed difference, they concluded this was a lifestyle and management issue.
The vets suggested that the increased rate of tooth decay in young Swedish trotters was because they were fed high-concentrate diets and were given haylage rather than hay. Both cause increased acidity in the mouth, which in turn is known to increase dental disease.
For the full article on the latest veterinary research and developments, see the current issue of Horse & Hound (15 July, ’10)
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