Pathology of canines and incisors, wolf teeth and caps

Pathology of canines and incisors, wolf teeth and caps

Diseases of the incisors, canines, wolf teeth and caps

Dr Nicole du Toit BVSc MSc CertEP PhD

Tulbagh Equine Dentistry


– Incisors:

  • Prehension
  • Not essential for survival in domestic animals

– Canines:

  • Mostly in stallions and geldings
  • Used when fighting

Owners’ perception

– Teeth they see every day

– Concerned about any pathology

– Often confusion between wolf teeth and canines

Lateral excursion test

– Lateral movement of lower jaw

– Measure point at which incisors separate

– Indicative of cheek teeth pathology

– Unlikely to be exactly the same to right and left

Pathology of the canines

– Plaque and calculus accumulation

  • Associated gingivitis
  • Removal of plaque at routine dental exam

Pathology of canines

– Fractured canines

  • Rare – often old
  • Determine if pulp exposed

– Iatrogenic pulp exposure – rasping of canines

  • Very popular practice in USA
  • Can result in apical infection
  • Extraction of canines – difficult procedure

Pathology of incisors

– Fractured incisors

  • Common in young horses
  • Determine extent of fracture i.e. involving reserve crown?
  • Emergency treatment – calcium hydroxide, antibiotics and NSAIDs
  • Endodontic treatment
  • Chronic fracture with dead tooth – will continue to erupt and have functional occlusion

– Retained deciduous incisors

  • Need to distinguish permanent from deciduous
  • Deciduous often lie bucally
  • Result in displacement of permanent incisors
  • Often have long roots!
  • Sedation, nerve blocks and extraction

– Displaced teeth

  • Often only require floating of overgrown teeth
  • If severe with periodontal disease – extraction

– Slant, smile or frown mouth

  • Indicative of abnormal masticatory action
  • Cheek teeth pathology
  • Careful floating of overgrown teeth – but if too much incisors will lose contact!
  • Could also be due to ‘tilted’ palate or wry nose

– Incisor diastema

  • More common in older horses
  • Food accumulation
  • Gingivitis and periodontal disease
  • Halitosis
  • Regular cleaning out
  • Hibitane mouth wash

– Equine Odontoclastic Tooth Resorption and Hypercementosis (EOTRH)

  • Older horses
  • Severe incisor gingivitis
  • Small draining abscesses at apical level


  • Radiographs: initially lucency and tooth resorption
  • Radiographs: advanced cases have areas of hypercementosis
  • No medical treatment effective

  • Extratction

Older horses

– Combination of diseases

  • Displaced teeth
  • Missing teeth
  • Diastema
  • Gingivitis


  • Worn teeth

Maxillary prognathism

– Manage incisor overgrowths

– Cheek teeth mismatch

– Young foal – orthodontic treatment

Mandibular prognathism

– Not as common

Fractured jaws

– Less common

– Surgery or conservative management


– Always a consideration with severe lesions

– Usually poor prognosis

Wolf teeth

– Vestigeal non-functional teeth

– Extraction controversial

– Can have long roots!

– Sedation and local anaesthesia important

  • Local infiltration
  • Infra-orbital nerve block


– Deciduous teeth about to shed

– Can become retained

– Cause temporary discomfort

– Important not to remove them too soon

– May damage underlying dental sac

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