Ty’s First Breakthrough: Neuromuscular Dentistry

I am SO delighted to announce that Ty’s road to wellness is underway! It’s been a busy month of physical therapy, mental reset, and observation! Today, I am excited to talk about a specific practice of equine dentistry that has set Ty’s path for physical health!

Time for a Dentist

It didn’t take long after Ty arrived to see an issue with his dietary consumption. He was just a bit too thin for his lifestyle. He stood tucked up at his flank, like he wasn’t getting enough fluid. His muscles were hard all over and hollow through his hip, and he was thick & sore through his C2 (a few inches behind the poll). Watching his behavior, I put 2 & 2 together. He ate slowly and with little enthusiasm. He couldn’t actually chew with his head to the ground, so every time he took a bite, he had to break and bring his head to eye level in order to get the feed or grass down. Most notably, he could only chew straight up & down. He definitely needed a dentist!

What Dentist?

Most horse people, professional or not, understand equine dentistry to involve floating the horse’s premolars and molars. Over time, due to what they eat, how they eat, and how they move, horses develop sharp points and edges on their premolars and molars. ‘Floating’ teeth usually involves a veterinarian rasping away the sharpness from the teeth in the back of the mouth so a horse doesn’t rub himself raw trying to move his jaw. Fair enough.

However, after some enlightening education regarding equine dentistry and how we can address the mouth with respect to the horse’s biomechanics and neuromuscular response, it was clear that Ty’s mouth needed to be rebalanced. Ergo, we called in the troops of Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry!

Ty’s Mouth

Ty provides a perfect example of a horse failing out of the common dental system. He had been floated at least annually over the past 5 years, and yet he had major issues. He couldn’t chew like a horse! Among many aspects of the underlying problem, the big ones were present as follows:

Lack of Lateral Jaw Motion

When Ty went to chew, his jaw could not go side to side. Due to lack of proper wear and the fact that his grinding teeth (premolars & molars) had been routinely shaved & rounded down, his incisors (front teeth) had become pressurized, worn unevenly, and his skull had become imbalanced. With this, the guidance the incisors provide to the motion of the jaw did not exist. Ergo- a lack of lateral mobility.

This generated many mechanical problems, but the two most prominent being as follows. For one, Ty chewed inefficiently, taking in only a fraction of the forage that he should have been able to consume. This was due to the loss of proper motion of C0, C1 and the TMJ as primary joints for mastication. Instead of pulverizing his food with his teeth acting naturally as grindstones, he was forced to mash his food through vertical compression.

Lack of Anterior-Posterior Jaw Motion 

Essentially, Ty’s jaw position rested more posterior than optimal for his anatomy, minimizing his atlas-ramus space. This put constant pressure on his TMJ, giving Ty a headache and compromising the joint’s sensory feedback function. It also disabled Ty from turning his head, carrying it low to the ground, flexing at the poll, or chewing comfortably.

Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry

Fortunately for Ty, there are dentists who address dentition with respect to its constituent muscular & neurosensory functions. In other words, there are dentists who address the whole horse.

After the dentist addressed the imbalance in Ty’s incisors, he regained lateral translation and anterior-posterior motion to his jaw. By correcting the inverted angulation of Ty’s molars, brought on by years of rasping down surface prevalence & texture, she restored Ty’s ability to grind feedstuff. In addressing the fit of the mouth as a whole, she has jump started restoration of Ty’s long deficient neurosensory function. The horse is indeed back on track!

After a few weeks of settling into his new mouth, Ty continues to transform. He’s gaining weight, and his body continues to soften more each day. His movement is more fluid, and he’s loosening through his hind end. He has a softer eye, eats on the ground, and has a stronger appetite. He reacts more appropriately to imposed stimuli, remains relaxed under pressure, and breathes in regular frequency. Settling fully into his new mouth will take months, and giving his body and instinctual reactions time to adjust will take longer, but Ty is well on his way back to becoming the innate horse beneath his tension.

I owe a huge thank you to the specialists at Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry for digging deeper into equine dental practice to understand the horse’s dentition and how it intertwines with biomechanics and neurosensory function. It is innovators like these people who pave the way for the next generation of horsemen to create and sustain the animals we love!

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