Oz would like to know, how much will the tooth fairy leave him? Because after his day with the dentist, he surely believes he deserves something!
We had a gal from Oregon come up to the Cowboy's barn to do some work on Thursday. In the past we've had different vets do our dental work. They've come and slung a rope up over a beam in the stall door, then we'd stand the horse in the stall doorway, and the rope would be attached to their halter. This would hold the head up where the vet was able to work easily on the teeth.
When I asked where the dentist would like to work on the horses (stall, alleyway), she said she'd like to have a corner somewhere with good light. I assumed she must have a stand which the horse could rest it's head. Nope. She had me. I was the helper, the head holder, the one who was expected to keep the horse's head where it was supposed to be so she could work.
She explained to us that she'd seen horses get their heads pulled up so high that they'd had strokes, and decided a long time ago that she really didn't need to work like that. So a head holder, aka human assistant, was what she used.
Tools of the dental trade sit inside a bucket of water
On Thursday, Doxee was the first to be done. We knew it'd been a few years since her teeth had been looked at, so it was no surprise to hear that her teeth had a lot of ridges, hooks, flares and waves. What was a surprise was when she told me to put my hand up there to feel. No one had ever had me do that before! But with Doxee wearing that special dental mouth piece (called a spreader bar) that kept her teeth from crunching down on me, I happily reached up to feel what the dentist felt.
I was amazed at how far back I had to reach. I mean...I've seen skulls and know those are long faces, but reaching up inside, I expected to get to the teeth sooner. Leslie reached up there with various tools while I propped up Doxee's head, grinding and filing until it was all smooth. Then she did something I'd never seen a vet do...she sawed off the front teeth!
Okay, she didn't saw them off, but she did saw off 1/8" or so. The reason for this was that while the top and bottom teeth in the front met up, her molars in the back had a big gap. They'd been filed down...they didn't meet up. The only way to make them meet up so that Doxee could chew her food was to alter the length of the front teeth as well.
Doxee was the first of six horses that day. Most were in worse condition than Doxee, which came as a shock since three of them had just come in from a big training barn. The molars on a couple were so full of ridges that their cheeks were ripped up.
Oz is always playing with his tongue
By the end of the day on Thursday, I was beat. Holding heads all day is hard work! I'm not sure how Leslie's back holds up to doing that much dental work in a day, or more! She's been an equine dentist for 16 years now, however, so maybe she's used to it?
Today she came back to do five more, one of whom was Oz. We elected to start with the older horses, knowing that they'd be the harder ones. One mare had just been done 6 months ago. Once again, she had me put my hand up inside the mouth. I was disappointed...how could it be so bad in such a short amount of time? According to Leslie, many vets simply don't know how to properly care for teeth. How would they, she asked? That's not what they've been trained to do. They get a little bit of training for a wide variety of things, but nothing in depth like a specialist.
Which makes perfect sense, right? Would you go to your general practitioner for your dental work? Probably not. So why should we trust our horse's mouths to someone who hasn't had the in depth training of an equine dentist?
Oz, being a baby, is losing baby teeth. He also still had his wolf teeth. I've been wondering if the reason he's always got his tongue out is due to dental issues. Of late, he's also begun to lose some weight. Leslie confirmed that the weight was almost certainly due to him losing teeth right now. She told me to expect the same in about another year. She took a look up inside his mouth and commented on his big wolf teeth. That didn't surprise me; every vet who's pulled wolf teeth on a mustang always comments on the size. Oz's wolf teeth were not only large, but they were sharp and pointed. No wonder they call them wolf teeth...they look like they should be inside the mouth of a dog!
Further back, Oz had one loose tooth and one that seemed to be stuck; it should have come out but instead was jammed in their between teeth. That, we decided, was why he was always sticking that tongue out. "It's like the world's biggest popcorn kernel," said Leslie, "and he's trying to push it out with his tongue."
Three pairs of teeth; the wolf teeth on the left, baby molars on the right,
and in the center filings from the front teeth.
We'd thought that Oz would be the last, but the Cowboy asked Leslie if she could look at a mare who was just done a few weeks ago. Seems she had some head issues, so they had a vet come and work on her. After he left, she had a whole new set of issues with her bit. Leslie slipped the spreader bar inside the mare's mouth and took a quick feel of her teeth. She turned to me and said, "Reach up in their and tell me what you feel."
I reached inside, and the first tooth felt like it'd been filed. I reached further back, and began feeling ridges and hooks on both sides, top and bottom. I turned to look at Leslie, who was shaking her head. "It feels like they just did the first tooth," I told her. So rather than being done with Oz, I found myself holding one more head.
It was long day with horse's heads propped up on my shoulders, or resting in my arms, or my arms stuck up inside mouths. Things I learned; never trust a vet to do a dentist's work, performance horses need to be checked every 6 months, and never tell your three year old the tooth fairy will come if they lose a tooth in the process because they quickly add up the fact that they just lost four.