As horses get older, dental disease becomes a problem, so all horses should have a dental exam performed by your veterinarian twice a year when vaccinations are due. Lots of older horses will develop cupped out and shortened teeth, tooth fractures, and periodontal disease because feed becomes packed between the teeth and can lead to infection. All of these cases will cause horses’ teeth to become loose or mobile in the mouth, which is painful and requires extraction. Most dental extractions can be performed by your veterinarian with the horse sedated and a local anesthetic to numb the nerves. However, some extractions will require general anesthesia.
An interesting study was performed by veterinarians in Germany concerning the use of antibiotics after extracting teeth in horses. In small animal medicine, it’s controversial if antibiotics should be used after extractions as many small animal dentists do not recommend them in dogs and cats after teeth are extracted. The study in Germany involved 20 horses with various teeth extracted and blood samples were taken during and after the procedure. It was found that as soon as one minute after an incision was made in the gum, many horses had bacteria in their blood stream and that these bacteria could lead to infections of the heart valves or pneumonia. The study revealed 90 percent of the horses had bacteria cultured from their blood at some point during the procedure, and all extracted teeth were cultured and found to have bacterial infections. For this reason, it may be wise for your veterinarian to place your horse on antibiotics after extracting a tooth to prevent infection from the mouth spreading to other parts of the horse’s body.