Dr. Mary working on a horse Equine Dental mini in stocks

Common Questions

Why should I choose a Licensed Veterinarian for my horse's dental care?

In the states of Washington and Idaho, it is illegal for persons without a veterinary license to practice equine dentistry. Under certain circumstances it is permissible for a LICENSED veterinary technician employed by a veterinarian to perform specific limited procedures. Equine Dentistry is part of the practice of veterinary medicine. The teeth, the oral structures are all living tissues. Damage to these tissues can significantly impact your horse's health. Only a veterinary medical professional has the knowledge to safely treat this important aspect of your horse's health. You are your horse's first line of defense and his only advocate. Know your care provider's qualifications.

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Does every horse need a "Veterinary Dentist"?

Every horse will benefit from the care that a veterinarian who has specialized in equine dentistry can provide. As you know, it is much better to prevent a problem than try and correct it once it's well established. A horse's mouth is no exception. A veterinarian with focused and well-honed skills in this area is better able to find potential problems early and head them off before they become serious.
Current research is showing that equine teeth that function normally and have normal wear patterns actually wear more slowly and therefore last longer! This means that the better a horse's teeth are maintained, the longer into his geriatric years his teeth will remain effective for grinding long stemmed roughage, the staple of the equine diet.

The dental focused veterinarian is best able to maintain the delicate balance that will keep your horse's mouth healthy and fully functional.

At the other end of the spectrum, when severe problems have developed or a disease state is present, a specialized Veterinarian with vast dental experience provides fast, correct diagnosis and can treat the problem most efficiently, often with minimally invasive procedures.

The knowledge, techniques, and equipment required to perform a thorough dental exam, make a proper diagnosis, perform corrections and treatments are difficult to acquire and time consuming to master. As specialization is becoming more and more common in other areas of medicine, so too is the case in veterinary medicine. I believe it is unrealistic to expect an equine veterinarian to be an expert in all aspects of the field. The knowledge base is far too extensive and growing constantly. The improved health and performance that a veterinarian with specialized training can bring your horse through proper dental care is impressive. You will see and feel the difference.

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What should I expect when you examine my horse?

There must be a safe place for your horse, yourself and the veterinarian. See the FAQ on facilities for further details on this topic.

I perform a brief general physical exam and will discuss any significant medical history or current health concerns with you before I begin. If your horse is having trouble eating, I may like to watch him eat hay before proceeding with the oral exam.

I will sedate your horse with a safe and effective combination of intravenous anesthetics. He/She will get very groggy, may sway a bit or even stumble once or twice. This is all normal and desirable. The vast majority of horses stand quite well with my drug combinations. It is EXTREMELY rare for a horse to lose his balance and fall. However, my requirement for a safe work environment ensures that in the unlikely event of a fall, the horse will not be injured and has good footing to quickly regain his feet. Once the horse has reached the desired plane of anesthesia, I apply an instrument called a full mouth speculum. This instrument holds your horse's mouth open safely and without pain. With it, I can see and feel all the way to the back of the mouth.

Once I've made my initial assessment, I can give you a tour of your horse's mouth on my video. We discuss the strong points and the weak points and what can be done to make his/her mouth as close to normal as possible. If you agree with my suggestions, I begin working.

My handling technique allows me to work with your horse safely and efficiently without assistance. It is safest for you to be out of immediate range in case your horse swings his head or stumbles. This way you can watch my work as it progresses! I use a combination of motorized and hand tools to best address your horse's needs. My motorized equipment includes both rotary and reciprocating instrumentation. My broad selection of instruments allows me pin point accuracy. I can address each portion of each tooth individually as I work to make the whole mouth a smoothly functioning unit.

When my work is complete, most patients are beginning to emerge from the sedation. If a horse has a particular sensitivity to the sedative drug I choose, and seems groggy for a bit too long, I can use another medication to reverse the sedative effects for faster recovery. Most of my patients are ready to move as soon as I am finished with the work and most can be loaded into a trailer within 20 - 30 minutes. Many owners are concerned about hauling a horse that has been recently sedated. There is no danger in hauling a horse short distances with a little residual sedation. Please make sure there is no hay in the trailer or they may choke.

You will receive a detailed chart outlining your horse's mouth before and after the corrections, a discussion of the procedures, a list of recommendations, and a summary of charges.

Patients may not eat hay or grain for 1-2 hours after sedation and dental treatments.
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Fees and Payment:

The cost varies significantly from horse to horse based on the necessary treatments for each individual. The following information will apply for the fall of 2018:

"Routine Dental Exam and Prophylactic Care:"

All of the above dental fees include a physical exam, with special emphasis on the head and mouth. These fees also include a complete dental charting of your horse's dental condition both before and after treatment, recommendations for future dental work and recommendations on any other health care issues.
Additional treatments or diagnostics that may be required such as; periodontal disease treatment, extractions, radiographs etc., are priced separately and are not included in the above estimates. I encourage groups to coordinate scheduling to benefit a larger number of horses. In that regard, I extend a courtesy discount of 5% to 15% off dental fees for multiple horses at the same location on the same day. (Terms may vary).

Payment is required at the time of service unless other arrangements have been made IN ADVANCE. I accept cash and checks and, if prior arrangement is made, Paypal.

Feel free to email me with any specific questions at drmary@nwequinedentistry.com,

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How long does the procedure take?

Routine examination and maintenance generally requires 30-45 minutes. Horses requiring complex treatment or diagnostic procedures or patients who are extremely resistant take longer. I have to be very careful to let the horse periodically rest during long procedures. It is not safe to keep the mouth open wide for long periods of time without a break.

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How often does a horse need a dental examination?

Following a horse's first thorough examination and correction, the majority will require annual follow-ups to maintain his/her mouth in optimum functioning order. A few will require more frequent attention, rarely more than every six months. A horse requiring major initial corrections may be best served if the work is broken into two or three sessions a few months apart. Some performance horses will appreciate touch-ups every 6-9 months to keep them comfortable. Horses under the age of 5 benefit from examination every 6-9 months because their teeth are erupting faster than a mature horse and their mouths are undergoing fast and dramatic change as they acquire their permanent teeth.

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Is sedation really necessary?

Yes. Leaders in the field agree that it is not possible to perform a thorough examination and correction without substantial sedation. While most procedures are not painful, even routine work is cause for apprehension for most horses. The sedation is extremely safe and allows him/her to relax so that the work can be done correctly, efficiently and without undue stress to the horse.

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What can I expect after the procedure?

Your horse can get in a trailer and haul for short distances (less than @3 hours) within about 30 minutes of completing routine work.

Horses should not be ridden after sedation. It is unsafe for the rider. Under most circumstances, horses may be ridden as normal the following day.

Your horse should not eat hay or grain for at least 1 -2 hours after a sedation and dental procedures. Once they are fully awake, most horses never miss a meal. A few horses seem to be sensitive to even minute changes in their mouths, even if the changes are for the better. These patients may require a day or two to adjust to their new bite. During that time these patients may leave coarser hay or drop a few half chewed hay wads (quids). I am available and happy to address any concerns at any time following the procedure.

Your copy of the dental chart has a description of what is and is not normal after routine dental work. Please read it over and ask any questions at the time of the exam.

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A word about "groups."

My work style and fee structure is set up to be conducive to group appointments. A significant amount of equipment is necessary to provide safe and thorough dental care for horses. Correspondingly, a significant amount of time is required to set up, clean up and reload all that equipment at each location. Whenever possible, I prefer to see 5 - 8 horses in a day, all at one location. This is how I am most efficient and how I can benefit the most horses. In order to encourage clients to group together, I have significantly discounted my fees to benefit owners who group together to see me in one place and training/boarding facilities where I care for multiple horses.

I am not able to make a stop for fewer than three horses. (There are rare exceptions for existing patients with ongoing probems and extenuating circumstances.) I do understand that for some folks the convenience of their own farm call outweighs the cost savings of hauling to or hosting a group. Group discounts start at 4 patients and get larger at 6 patients.

I serve many owners with one or two horses. I periodically host groups at one of several barns and veterinary facilities throughout Washington. If you are interested in adding on to an existing group appointment, just let me know where you are based and I'll do my best to find you something convenient.

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What kind of facilities will you need in order to care for my horse(s)?

I use my portable stocks to treat patients. It requires a location that I can back my truck to with access at least 6 feet wide to a covered floor. Flooring can be pavement or gravel/dirt as long as it is not too uneven. Threshhold steps either up or down of more than a few inches are not acceptable. The stocks are on a trailer with relatively low clearance. Barn aisles, arenas, open pole buildings, wash racks if large enough and even garages if there are no hazards are approriate. I cannot set the stocks in a stall as the door will likely be too narrow to allow entry.

Please note that when working at a given facility, I set up in one work area and move horses in and out. I cannot move my "dental office" down the barn aisle or down the street once it's set up without charging a new set up fee. If your property is very large and horses need to walk a long distance to another barn after sedation, it may be advantageous to have a "recovery stall" near the work area. Horses can walk a short distance (from one side of a barn to another) immediately after the procedure, but will need about 30 minutes to wake enough to walk half a mile in a reasonable amount of time. The sedatives I choose are designed to facilitate quick recovery.

I need access to electricity (I carry a 50 ft heavy duty extension cord) and a water hose in good working order with an undamaged end (no squashed fittings) that will reach to the stall or area where I'm working. This can be a cold water hose. Additionally, I need a bucket of very hot water for my instruments. My lighting needs are minimal. Actually, it is easier for me to work in low lighting than bright sunlight.

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