What is Retained Dental Caps ?
Retained dental caps in horses can cause problems with the correct alignment of the permanent tooth as well as even inhibit the growth of the adult tooth. This condition can cause some problems as the mouth of the young horse (usually during the first five years of age) continues to grow and develop. Pain, swelling, and misaligned teeth may point to this condition; your veterinarian can solve the issue by removing the dental caps allowing for relief from the discomfort your horse may be under.
A dental cap in a horse is simply the deciduous (baby teeth) which have partially worn away and are now a thin shell which rests atop the adult teeth as they come in. These deciduous teeth are shed as the new adult teeth come in. They become retained when they don’t totally shed and some portion of the shell remains either attached to the adult tooth or gets wedged in the oral cavity.
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Symptoms of Retained Dental Caps in Horses
The process for the development of the equine mouth requires that the deciduous teeth be pushed out as the adult permanent teeth emerge. When this process doesn’t occur smoothly, these are some of the symptoms you will likely note in your young horse:
- Chewing difficulty
- Painful signs in the foal when bit training is being done
- Swelling on the upper bridge of nose that is obviously painful to the foal
- Bumps on the lower jawbone that are solid
- Permanent teeth out of alignment
- Sharp points of enamel on the deciduous teeth
The types of retained dental caps in horses are basically two in nature:
- Retained dental cap still attached to permanent tooth as it emerges
- Retained dental cap broken with pieces being lodged in the oral cavity
These dental caps are generally shed as the permanent (adult) teeth come in, allowing the new tooth to have the space needed to emerge as designed. This generally begins to occur between the ages of 2 and 3 years old.
Causes of Retained Dental Caps in Horses
Retained dental cap is a condition in which the dental cap (deciduous tooth), which is normally shed as the adult permanent tooth under it emerges, doesn’t shed as it is intended. The dental cap (baby tooth) is pushed up and instead of smoothly coming off the adult tooth under it, it gets hung up and doesn’t shed. This can be as a result of the long roots of the dental cap not coming out of the gum or the cap can break off into pieces which can become lodged around other teeth and other oral tissues in the mouth.
Diagnosis of Retained Dental Caps in Horses
Diagnosis of retained dental caps is usually done through a dental examination by your veterinary professional. This type of examination should be done about every six months from the ages of 2 to 4 years as your foal develops so that these retained dental caps can be found and removed before they cause problems for the equine. This examination is usually done in a dimly lit room using a light to illuminate the oral cavity of the horse.
If the horse is aggressive or stressed, this examination may need to be done under some mild sedation. It is important to remove these retained dental caps so that impaction of the incoming teeth doesn’t occur, or to avoid misalignment of the incoming teeth, or to allow the incoming teeth to grow as intended.
Treatment of Retained Dental Caps in Horses
Frequent dental examinations in the developing foal in the formative years will provide the best treatment for this condition. When retained dental caps are discovered by your dental veterinarian, they can be extracted after the boundary line between the deciduous and the permanent tooth can be seen. Any retained dental cap discovered before the age of 5 years must be removed to provide adequate space for the new tooth to come in properly and avoid pain and discomfort that can be caused by dental caps or pieces of dental caps which have been retained and are interfering with the chewing mechanism of the horse.
If your horse is beginning training, a comprehensive dental examination is very important. The deciduous teeth are softer than adult teeth and they may develop sharp points which could interfere with bit training and cause a lack of cooperation in the training process due to oral discomfort in your young horse. If this occurs, your dental veterinary professional can file or shave the tooth down (also called floating).
Recovery of Retained Dental Caps in Horses
Prevention is the best means of management of this condition. By keeping up with periodic dental examinations, especially during the important formative years of your foal, will go a long way toward preventing the discomfort and other oral issues associated with retained dental caps and their effect on incoming permanent teeth. This is a rescue of your horse from eating, chewing, training and other general oral discomforts which can come from retained dental caps in horses.