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THERE have been many studies in recent years that have highlighted the clinical significance of diastemata (a gap between two teeth) in equids. A recent study demonstrated that diastemata were one of the more prevalent dental diseases observed in geriatric equines (Ireland and others 2012). The study by Walker and others (2012), summarised on p 44 of this week's Veterinary Record, is the first that has conclusively shown that diastemata are highly prevalent (49.9 per cent) in the general population of equids with a median age of 11 years. This is particularly important for horse owners and veterinary surgeons to be aware of, as diastemata are now accepted as the most painful oral condition in horses.
The reason diastemata are so painful is because of the associated gingivitis and periodontal disease. Food entrapment causes gingivitis due to mechanical irritation, and trapped food was present in 91 per cent of equids with diastemata in this study (Walker and others 2012). As the bacteria build up in these food pockets, they cause chemical irritation with further destruction of the gingiva progressing to involve the periodontal ligament. If left untreated, this may progress to the alveolar bone or along the periodontal ligament to cause an apical infection and ultimately loss of the tooth.
The diagnosis of diastemata can easily be missed, …
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