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First News Winter 2007

Open Wide!!

   Equine Dentistry is about improving and often prolonging a horse's life and usefulness through proper ongoing dental care. It’s as important as de-worming, vaccinating, and proper foot care are to a preventative health maintenance program by providing optimum health, comfort, and performance for your equine companions. Birgit Burglechner, originally from Germany, is an Equine Dental Technician who practices in Huerfano County, Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and northern New Mexico and continues to expand into other counties in Colorado. She has lived in the United States for seven years, but moved to La Veta just three years ago. She began to study Equine Dentistry two years ago after taking her horses to an Equine Dental Technician in Colorado Springs. He told her about a school that offered course work and she decided it would be a wonderful start to becoming a veterinarian someday. Birgit attended the American School of Equine Dentistry in Virginia completing an extensive and highly specialized course. There, students were required to learn the anatomy of a horse, particularly the head, and complete many hours of practical field work, then individually test on techniques and pass a lengthy written test. Although no license is required, Colorado state law requires a technician to work in cooperation with veterinarians.

Birgit Burglechner and Roseanne Sapirie

   Equine Dentistry involves “floating” the horse’s teeth to examine the mouth cavity and teeth using a full mouth speculum. A horse’s tooth erupts 1/8" per year (unlike human teeth, horse teeth keep erupting with molars up to 4" long) and continue to produce layers of enamel. Those enamel points could cause problems if they don't wear off naturally. Enamel points can create lacerations along the cheek and tongue and cause great discomfort. Additional basic maintenance while doing a proper float includes: “steps” (one tooth higher than the other), waves (teeth usually have a literal “wave look”), ramps and hooks which restrict the horse from a well-balanced side-to-side and backward-forward chewing motion while eating. Over extended incisors, parrot mouth and sow mouth are some other malocclusions (faulty closure of the upper and lower teeth) that can cause TMJ soreness and lead to discomfort in the animal’s neck and back. Birgit also performs extractions and practices preventative measures for periodontal disease which can lead to premature tooth loss. The horse is sedated to ensure that a proper exam of the mouth and detailed work on the teeth can be accomplished without causing unnecessary trauma.

   Proper dental care and prevention can lead to reduced feed costs by enabling the horse to break down nutrients in its food to facilitate better digestion. The warning signs of needed dental care can be spilling grain, difficult to bit, head throwing while riding, to rearing, or unexplained weight loss even though given proper amounts of nutrition, and frequent bouts of colic. The time frame for dental care starts from early yearling, and continues every six months until the horse is 4-5 years old due to changes from caps (baby teeth) coming loose, and to ensure proper formation of the skull. Once five years or older, it should be done yearly. Another important consideration for a two year old is having its wolf teeth removed before the horse goes into training or ever has a bit in its mouth. Birgit’s basic fee is $65 and she doesn’t charge a trip fee. With all the variables inherent to horses of varying ages, needs and sizes, rates can vary in the $200-300 range, where other equine dental technicans’ basic rates start. When the horse is considered to be on an “annual” basis, yearly consistent dental treatments are approximately $200. The work is performed with high-tech power tools (not unlike those used on people) and is practiced in conjunction with veterinarians since sedation is necessary for a complete and precise finish. Locally, Birgit works primarily with Dr. Roberts from Walsenburg, Dr. Falduto in Trinidad, and Dr. Perry in the Colorado Springs area, although she continually seeks cooperation with other veterinarians. Birgit also educates owners, trainers, and riders to improve the horse’s health, comfort and well-being. Horse owners or other interested parties can reach her assistant, Rosanne Sapirie at (719) 738-6562 or Birgit at (719) 989-8629.

Newsletter photography by Michael Babnick Photography

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