Fairly recently a new condition has been documented that affects a horse’s incisors and sometimes the canine teeth called equine odontoclastic tooth resorption and hypercementosis, or EOTRH for short. EOTRH occurs in aged horses and is characterized by resorption and destruction of the teeth and is painful. The cause of the condition is unknown, although many believe stress and strain on the teeth contribute to the problem, whereas others believe a bacterial infection may be involved. Although the cheek teeth can also be affected, the disease is uncommon and less severe in the cheek teeth. Affected horses are in pain, have difficulty chewing, increased salivation, tend to pack feed in the mouth, and have a decreased appetite.
When looking at the teeth, you will notice the gums are receding, swollen and inflamed. Feed may begin to accumulate between the teeth leading to further inflammation and infection. Early diagnosis of the disease requires x-rays of the suspected teeth involved and later on, the dental structures appear enlarged due to inflammation and increased production of cementum on the affected teeth. As the disease progresses, affected teeth will become loose and infection develops around them. Unfortunately, most of these teeth will need to be extracted at some point as they are painful, and x-rays are certainly necessary before and after extraction. Some cases can be managed initially with home care by removing food trapped between the teeth and brushing the affected teeth daily. Since these are usually the incisors or front teeth that are affected, this can be done on most horses. Make sure your veterinarian examines your horse’s teeth at every visit.