Dental caries / tooth decay

Het gaatje in de kies van de zestienjarige ruin is gevuld (Foto: Lingehoeve)


June 16, 2020

The cavity in the molar of this 16-year-old gelding has been filled (Photo: Lingehoeve)
Veterinarian Anne Hiensch-Zeijlmaker has specialised in dentistry. At the Lingehoeve Veterinary Clinic in Lienden she treated a 16-year-old gelding. This gelding had cavities in his molar, to such an extent that there was a risk of the molar breaking in half.

Damage to the enamel

Anne Hiensch explains: ‘Equine molars have a completely different make-up compared to those of people. The molars of the upper jaw are wider than in the lower jaw and to provide firmness they have two so-called infundibula in the middle. This is something like an enamel cup that runs from the chewing surface to the root of the molar. This cup should be filled to the brim with cementum, but this is not always the case. If there is not enough cementum in the cup this gives food particles a chance to pile up there. These food particles will start rotting and in combination with bacteria will damage the enamel layer of the infundibulum. When the enamel layer is damaged the rotting process will advance deeper into the molar and the molar quickly degenerates.’

Donkey work

Treating infundibula means cleaning and filling. ‘And that is sheer donkey work,’ Anne tells us, ‘In younger horses these infundibula may be up to 70-80 mm deep, a few mm wide and they are erratically shaped. In cases of tooth decay they are often filled with compacted food remnants as far down as the root of the tooth. What makes it tricky is that horses cannot open their mouths as wide as people or dogs and cats, so I always have to operate at an angle of 90 degrees because I cannot reach the area from above. That’s why this kind of treatment has to be carried out at the clinic where facilities are good and we have all the necessary equipment.’

Prolongation of life span

Fortunate for this gelding, X-rays revealed no signs of a tooth root infection. ‘We were able to clean and fill the damaged infundibula. This restores firmness to the molar and protects the enamel layer against external influences and effectively extends durability of the molar. It’s likely this molar can now be preserved well into the horse’s advanced age.’

Read the full real-life story by Anne Hiensch-Zeijlmaker in the July issue of Phryso