Summerleaze Farm & Equine Vets give expert advice on equine dentistry

PUBLISHED: 12:21 24 July 2019 | UPDATED: 12:27 24 July 2019

Vet Stuart Altoft is an expert in equine dentistry. Picture: Rene Mansi

Vet Stuart Altoft is an expert in equine dentistry. Picture: Rene Mansi

Rene Mansi

Summerleaze Vets was set up in September 2017 by Jenny Clayton and Stuart Altoft, following the sale of Coombefield Veterinary Hospital.

Good equine dentistry is vital to horse welfare. Picture: Rene MansiGood equine dentistry is vital to horse welfare. Picture: Rene Mansi

Jenny and Stuart's vision for the business is to provide high quality healthcare for farm and equine clients by delivering a service which is based on personal, professional and affordable veterinary medicine.

The health and wellbeing of our patients is at the heart of the practice and to achieve this we aim to build and maintain a strong relationship between our clients, their animals and ourselves. To be able to achieve this, the training, health and wellbeing of staff is a priority.

Regular dental checks are very important to the overall health of your horse. This is because horses, having evolved to hide pain, often show no symptoms when a dental problem develops. If it is not picked up early, the problem can deteriorate into a serious and painful condition, which could be much more complicated and costly to treat.

Annual dental checks should start when the horse is a foal, to identify any early problems. If you have recently bought a horse it is a good idea to have their teeth checked as soon as possible, unless you know the horse has been having regular dental examinations.

It is best to go to a vet who is fully qualified in equine dentistry; a more general practitioner may not spot a potentially serious problem. Stuart Altoft, founder of Summerleaze Farm & Equine Vets in Axminster, is a vet who specializes in equine dentistry, having passed the BEVA/BVDA Equine Dental Technician examination in 2010. In 2015 he was awarded the RCVS Certificate of Advanced Veterinary Practice in Equine Dentistry, becoming one of a very small number of RCVS Advanced Practitioners in Dentistry in the UK. He accepts referral work in addition to treating the practice's regular clients.

The whole equine vet team at Summerleaze are dental focused, with the expertise and equipment to treat all common dental issues and diagnose those that need more advanced treatment by Stuart.

Here are some of the dental problems horses can develop, and how they are treated:

Sharp enamel points: These often develop naturally, due to horses wearing of their teeth during chewing. If left alone they can cause pain during riding or ulceration of the horse's cheeks and tongue. It is these sharp points and enamel overgrowths that are removed during the "tooth rasp" that many people will be familiar with. This is often done annually, although young and competition horses may need treatment more frequently.

"Rasping" is only the tip of the iceberg and only by careful examination including a dental mirror can more serious potential problems be identified.

Wolf teeth: These vestigial teeth can interfere with the bit and may need to be extracted. 'Blind' wolf teeth can be found underneath the gum, not yet erupted, and these too usually need to be extracted before they can cause any problems.

Tooth root abscess: These can be caused by fractured, diseased or displaced teeth and in most cases removing the tooth is the only option. This is not to be undertaken lightly as even a simple extraction can take several hours, with careful sedation and nerve blocking techniques. Fractured or abnormal teeth can require specialised surgical techniques to extract.

Periodontal (gum) disease: One of the most significant equine dental problems, and often overlooked. It is caused by food getting trapped in the spaces between the teeth (diastema) and rotting. Stuart Altoft of Summerleaze Vets is among a small number of expert dental vets in the UK offering diastema widening and hard interdental bridging as a long-term solution to this condition.

Infundibular Caries : This bacterial infection of the upper cheek teeth can result in cavity formation and fracture or infection of the tooth if not identified and addressed. Thankfully these cavities can be cleaned out and filled under standing sedation, protecting the tooth from further disease.

Contact Summerleaze Farm & Equine Vets on 01297 304007, email summerleaze@summerleaze-vets.co.uk or visit the website

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