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Natural Balance Equine Dentistry

Natural Balance Dentistry (NBD) is a unique model.  The end result is to maximize the surface to surface contact of the teeth resulting in centric occlusion to restore bio mechanical function and guidance to the temporomandibular joint anatomically correct to that individual.  “Less is more” philosophy achieves maximum results.

Natural Balance Dentistry involves not only removing sharp points from the teeth, but also looking at the entire neuromuscular response to the pathologies that are present in the mouth.  An interference in the mouth, whether it be uneven wear on the teeth, over growth or excessive enamel will effect the chewing action of the horse.  This makes it not only uncomfortable for the horse, but will cause pressure and rotation to the TMJ (temporomandibular joint).  The temporal bone connects to the TMJ and runs across the forehead and to the mandible (jaw).  The TMJ is an articular disc that separates the hinge joint of the jaw and the upper sliding joint.  It is supported by many ligaments, muscles and tendons. 

Proprioception and the Role of the TMJ

The TMJ is highly involved in proprioception.  Proprioception simply means one’s internal sense of self.  The proprioceptive nervous system has a direct link to the brain.  It involves giving the body information (via sensory feedback) about what is happening internally within the body.  These sensory nerve endings send impulses to the brain giving it information on body position, muscle tension, joint activity movement and equilibrium.  When the mouth is out of balance, the horse is out of balance and tries to compensate elsewhere as a means of self preservation (to escape threats).  Compensations can effect distant areas of the body. 

The Holistic Approach

This holistic approach to equine dentistry requires an understanding of how all the elements work together. Factors such as diet, age, physical condition, performance stresses and even the amount of trailering in each horse’s life work together to create the dental pathology he presents. Breeding for certain physical characteristics can produce the unwanted result of overcrowding or misalignment in the horses’ mouth.

"40 million years of evolution can’t be wrong but 100 years of bad opinions could be."--Spencer LaFlure

Evolution vs. Domestication In its natural state, the horse would graze 14 to18 hours a day on grasses.  The silica content in their forage abraded the teeth in such a manner that the front teeth wore at the rate they erupted, thus the mouth would stay in balance. These incisors, as they are called, are the key to balance in the mouth. horse teeth

The domestic horse at around age 5 has the optimum length and angle of front teeth, and it should remain as such throughout the life of the horse. Beyond the age of 5,  the front teeth of our domestic horses begin to exceed the appropriate length and angle, and they cause abnormal rotation of the TMJ; the joint where the jaw hinges to the skull. The rotation of this joint dictates the wear pattern of the molars.  Rather than traditional dentistry which combats the symptoms and sets up a cycle of imbalance, NBD treats the cause by maintaining the proper length and angle of the incisors first.


The Instruments

I use custom made, hand instruments that are ergonomically correct for a horse’s mouth.  My hand is in the mouth guiding the instrument to the precise spot that needs to be adjusted (not outside the mouth as many power float instruments require).  This also allows me to leave as much clinical crown and table surface on the molars as possible.  The natural angles of the molars are intact and maintained by the use of hand instruments.  It is more work for me, but better for the horse.

Causes of Dental Problems

Many factors influence dental pathology such as age, feed, the natural cycle of tooth growth and wear, congenital problems, breed and trauma to name a few.  Power floating creates an artificial pathology in the horse’s mouth that effect the whole body. A lot of practitioners and horse owners do not recognize this as an issue.


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