Tuesday March 23 2010
It's been a long time - 5 or 6 years (Stormy has a bad owner) - since Stormy had a dental appointment, so today Carol hauled him, with her mare Suz, to meet Sarah.
Sarah's a full-time equine dentist. She lives in northern Idaho, and once a year she brings her rolling dental clinic to a place down the road from here, where she parks and works on patients.
Stormy was a bit leery as I led him to the dental trailer. Sarah has a living quarters horse trailer, with the hauling part set up with her dental equipment, and stocks for a horse.
The whole setup was mighty suspicious, as was his owner's extra-sweet voice that was telling him he'd feel so much better later.
He was reluctant to go up the ramp into the stocks, but once he got in, he got the Happy Shot that made him oblivious.
For a 19-year-old Thoroughbred who hadn't had any teeth work done for half a decade (shame!), he wasn't in terrible shape. Sarah had a first look in his mouth. His canines had already been filed to a decent level but they were caked with tartar. Sarah got that off with a pair of pliers. He had no wolf teeth, so he either had them removed long ago, or he never had any.
Next: put on the torture device-looking mouth speculum that locked his mouth open, prop his head up in the round hanging gallows and on assistant Carol's shoulder, and he was ready to go.
His pre-molars and molars - 6 on top and 6 on the bottom, each side, running from the middle to the back of the mouth - had sharp hooks on the first and last teeth,
and a sharp edge on the outside of some of the molars. I got to stick my hand in his mouth (almost up to my elbow) and feel the sharp hooks on the back teeth. He had sores in his cheek from them. Sarah used an electric power float to file them down
and a hand float to finish them and to level the other molars.
He had a small overbite, which wasn't a big concern, but the incisors had a curve and diagonal that had a steep table angle that Sarah wanted to correct. By balancing the angle of the incisors, all the teeth - incisors, canines and smoothed molars, would work together and grind food more efficiently, passing it from front to back of the mouth and on down the throat, and the teeth wouldn't trap pieces of hay. It was either that or I'd be dental flossing him.
She used a burr, a little round spinning ball, to fine tune the teeth, and a spinning wheel to grind down the incisors, to correct the 'table angle' and curve.
Remember when I asked if Stormy was fat with his big belly in November? Most people suggested it was a hay belly. Whatever it was, it's definitely shrunk in the last month, and even through his winter coat I could see an outline of some of his ribs, even though it hasn't been a fierce winter. I'd also noticed him throwing wadded up chewed hay balls out of his mouth now and then. I'd had a feeling he wasn't able to grind his food up right.
I've had dental trauma and am somewhat terrified of dentists. I sit in The Chair and will myself to relax, even as my toes are curling and my fists are clenching; and I constantly flinch and jerk - doesn't matter how gentle the dentist is. Even just a cleaning, I almost can't stand it - the sound, the feeling... and watching Stormy being worked on, I was doing the same thing, tensing up and holding my breath. The sound of a power float on big horse teeth is like a jackhammer in a construction zone; it's awful. You know how your teeth smell when they're being drilled into - get a whiff of the horse teeth when they're being ground. Stormy would twitch and jerk and I'd do the same in empathy. Next time I'm asking for some of his tranquilizer.
Sarah said he could gain 75 pounds (oooooh, isn't he going to be happy!), and she'd like to see him again in a year, to see how his teeth have worn. It will be more of a maintenance visit, since she did a lot of corrective work this year (since his bad owner waited so long to get him to a dentist). He'll be digesting and absorbing his food better because he'll be able to chew it better (and without pain). I just wormed him with Panacur also. He ought to be looking mighty spiffy in a month or two.
Now, I only have to figure out a new way to trick him into going to the dentist again. I've got a year to do it.