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What is Dental Appliances to Retard Growth?

Young horses with congenital defects such as parrot mouth (overbite) or sow mouth (underbite), may have trouble masticating feed properly, resulting in malnutrition and retardation of growth. Oral appliances and wires implanted surgically under anesthesia by a veterinarian can provide corrective therapy to these young horses, allowing them to take in nourishment more effectively as they get older, to grow and develop at a normal rate. These appliances slow growth in the longer jaw allowing the shorter jaw to grow to a complimentary length. In some cases which the difference in jaw length is profound, an appliance can be attached to the lower jaw that allows an appropriate bite and encourages growth in the shorter jaw. Young horses usually adapt well to nursing with orthodontic appliances and the improved bite achieved allows them to take in proper nutrition, thus decreasing or eliminating the effects of impaired growth in young horses with orthodontic conditions.

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Dental Appliances to Retard Growth Procedure in Horses

Preoperative antibiotics are usually administered. The young horse will be put under general anesthesia intravenously for the procedure and oxygen provided intranasally if deemed appropriate. Maxillary retention wires and a fixed acrylic-aluminum incline plate are then surgically implanted. To perform this procedure, loops of 18 gauge stainless steel orthopedic wires are attached on both sides between the maxillary teeth and incisors. The wires are made taught and form a structure for dental acrylic which is then molded between them, on the palate in the case of parrot mouth, and an aluminum plate affixed into the acrylic, which then hardens. Once the acrylic sets the foal can be brought out of anesthesia and returned to their dam if not already weaned.

Removal of the orthopedic device is performed when the desired results are achieved or when the dental appliance becomes damaged or impaired and requires replacing. This may be performed by your veterinarian under standing sedation for simple removal if your horse tolerates it or under general anesthetic if another appliance is required or the horse is uncooperative.

Efficacy of Dental Appliances to Retard Growth in Horses

Surgically implanted dental appliances have a high success rate at resolving or improving a young horse’s bite and thus allowing them good dental functionality. Young foals are reported to adjust quickly to nursing with the dental appliance in place and the correction of the congenital disorder allows them to take in adequate nutrition and grow normally.

Dental Appliances to Retard Growth Recovery in Horses

Most foals will pick up nursing quickly, however, they may be given a foal ration for one day post surgery to ensure they do not become weak prior to adjusting to nursing with their orthopedic device. If a foal has trouble nursing with the appliance they will need to be supplemented, although this is rare. In some mares, the orthopedic device irritates the udder which may require that the mare be milked and foal bottle fed until the mare adjusts gradually. Feed may become lodged around the wires and device so owners may need to flush out the oral cavity daily and check for broken wires or acrylic coming loose. Surgical wounds will need to be monitored and cleaned until healed. They should be checked for signs of infection or disruption. Foals may be prescribed omeprazole for four to five days post surgery to prevent gastric ulcers from developing. If the foal appears to be in discomfort, phenylbutazone may be administered. The surgical procedure may need to repeated until the desired correction in bite is achieved. Correction usually occurs at a rate of 5 mm every three to six months with the most effect occurring between two to eight and 19 months of age. Your veterinarian will need to examine the appliance and oral cavity for desired effects monthly until the condition is resolved.

Cost of Dental Appliances to Retard Growth in Horses

The cost of dental appliance insertion along with anesthetic and follow-up treatment will vary depending on how many appliance procedures are required to achieve the desired correction to the defect and your location. The cost varies from $500 to $1,000 or higher if multiple procedures are required to insert dental appliances.

Horse Dental Appliances to Retard Growth Considerations

Complications associated with anesthesia and hemorrhage are possible with this procedure. Bleeding is usually straight forward to address and anesthetic complications can be mitigated by careful observation and assistance during recovery.

In addition, nerve damage can occur but usually resolves itself.

Dental Appliances to Retard Growth Prevention in Horses

Because congenital defects such as parrot mouth and sow mouth are inherited, horses exhibiting theses defects should be removed from any breeding program. Early intervention to correct the problem while the horse is young is associated with a good success rate and will result in a better outcome, allowing the young horse to take in appropriate nutrition and grow normally.