Why equine oral tissues require special care

Using materials developed for human dental work can cause significant problems in horses.

Treating dental disease in horses often requires filling “pockets” that form along the gum line as well as spaces between teeth. But researchers from Germany advise caution when using materials developed for human teeth to treat this equine oral problem.

Although equine and human teeth have similar structures, they are fundamentally different in form and function.

Working at a laboratory in Justus Liebig University in Giessen, researchers tested the effects of commonly used human dental materials on equine periodontium, the tissue that surrounds and supports each tooth. Four materials were analyzed: a paste developed specifically for filling pockets in gums, a temporary cement used to affix crowns and bridges to teeth, a paste used for endodontic treatments (those involving the softer inner tissues of teeth) and an impression material used to prepare implants.

Although equine and human teeth have similar structures, they are fundamentally different in form and function. “The equine teeth continually erupt, so the periodontium is simultaneously responsible for lifelong tooth attachment and tooth eruption,” explains Hannah Ringeisen, DVM. “In human teeth, the second task (eruption) ends with the formation of a complete dentition.”

Click here to learn how your horse might try to tell you his teeth hurt.

For the study, each material was added to a petri dish that contained periodontium cells collected from a healthy yearling horse. After 24 hours, the cells were examined under a microscope to look for changes in appearance. The researchers also tested the cells for viability and signs of inflammatory reactions.

The data showed that two of the materials—the impression material and the paste used for endodontic treatments—had severe cytotoxic effects on the equine cells, significantly damaging or killing them within the 24-hour period. Although a study in a clinical setting would confirm the implications of these findings, the researchers conclude that the two products “would most likely have harmful effects” if used in a living horse. The other two materials had no observed adverse effect on the cells.

Ringeisen says that until materials developed specifically for filling gum pockets and spaces between equine teeth are developed, it will be necessary to continue adapting products from human dentistry, but it’s important to test their effects on equine tissues first.

Reference: “Influence of dental materials on cells of the equine periodontium,” Equine Veterinary Journal, October 2017

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