"It seems that we can all understand how nature intended balance to be for the equine foot. As the horse roamed its domain, excess growth wore away naturally by herd movement across the terrain. This natural wear by lifestyle and environment is also true of the equine mouth, though perhaps it has been overlooked for a long time. “Out of sight, out of mind”, the concept of "form to function, function to form" is well understood these days. What I am going to share with you in this article is not my opinion but rather that which seems to fit the horse naturally.
In its natural state, the horse would graze 14 to 18 hours a day on grasses with silica’s that wore or abraded the teeth in such a manner that the front teeth wore as they erupted. These incisors, as they are called, are the key to balance in the mouth. The length and angle of the front teeth were meant to be equal in comparison to that of our domestic horses at around age 5 and should remain that way throughout the lifetime of the horse. It is at this point, beyond the age of 5, that the front teeth of our domestic horses exceed the appropriate length and angle. Here is where you begin to get abnormal rotation of the TMJ (Temporal Mandibular Joint); the joint where the jaw hinges to the skull. The rotation of this joint dictates the wear pattern of the molars. So the point of Equine Dentistry is to treat the cause, not the symptoms, by maintaining a natural length and angle of the incisors first. Further balancing of the molars cannot be accomplished without proper balance in the front of the mouth."
Motion of the jaw is 50% of the total mechanics. By using a Speculum (the tool that holds the horses mouth open), equine dentists are causing any imbalance in the incisors to shift to the molars, making any deviation appear to stem from there. The TMJ has cartilage and the jaw rotates from there, being the hinge point of the jaw. This is why it is so important to start with the incisors - the cause.
"Many of today’s equine Dentists apply centric, or centered alignment to the mouth; that is, applying a static "leveling", standard to every equine mouth they treat. The focus common among dentists currently, is occlusion. This means, simply, the meeting, or flush contact, of upper and lower tooth - on - tooth surfaces. However, because of the adaptable nature of equine tooth eruption, occlusion is present in all horses even before dentistry is applied. Concentric occlusion is what horses have present already in their mouths when they show up at the dentist. It should then be up to the dentist to anatomically align the mouth, so that it fits the individual to its optimal range."
Because of processed feeds, losing 50% of the mechanics of the jaw does not appear as disruptive as it really is. A horse does not show much change in weight loss or gain. "The real clue indicating the need to balance the equine mouth concerns the ability of travel and motion of the jaw. This is directly equal to the ability of motion of the horse’s entire body in all directions.
"So, how do we check for biomechanics of the jaw? Rather than pushing the closed jaw from one side to the other; which most people are familiar with, you can properly check the horse by cueing it to contract its own massitors. This provides a demonstration of the true biomechanical range of the jaw. (Consider this: if the above mentioned technique worked, human dentists would use it on us to check the surface to surface contact of our teeth, rather than the traditional carbon paper and "bite" technique.) The horse is cued by the dentist, by inserting fingers into the side of the mouth, initiating a chewing motion
reflex response. Numerous human dentists have shared with me the fact that all species of animals maintain a state of disclusion of teeth, or non-contact, while at rest or in activities other than eating. If the teeth were in contact while moving, it would cause damage to the surfaces of the teeth. So, occlusion, or mastication of food is only accomplished when the individual contracts its own massitors, or muscles that control the jaw.
The horse has proven to me that accomplishing balance is achieved by starting with the equilibration of the incisors first. Generally, a primary angle of adjustment is necessary there. If there is a great deal of change to be made; this should be gradually done, over time, as it is in humans. After all, it took a long time to develop; it should take a while to fix."
The use of power equipment by an equine dentist is a real no-no. Most equine dental tools are not ergonomically designed to fit in the horse’s mouth, let alone help balance it. Mr LaFlure has spent 3 years designing hand instrumentation that ergonomically fits the horse, as well as the practitioner. This lends itself to bloodless horse dentistry and less discomfort after dentistry.
"The horse is born with its first three molars; they are in contact, although they have no real use until the horse is about 6 to 8 months of age. In that time period, nature then establishes the appearance of another key balance point of the mouth the incisors or front teeth. These teeth (incisors and premolars) are basically all that are present in the mouth until about age two, at which time the plates or sutures of the skull fuse together. I believe that by this, Nature dictates these teeth are of primary importance to balance the head as it develops. When a bit seat is placed on the tooth, it takes away most of the leading molars surface-to-surface contact. Removal of this contact from a cornerstone of the mouth creates a lateral (side to side) instability of the TMJ. Amazingly, this shows up externally in a visual hollowing out of the horse’s flanks! When you don’t put in a bit seat to these premolars (allowing for maximum surface to surface contact) I’ve found that there is a greater stability to the TMJ and performance is enhanced."
Modification of mechanical parts is fine in theory, but practical application is when you discover it all falls apart. If a dentist tells you they are going to round the premolars to form a bit seat, put a stop to them right there.
"Natural balance in the mouth and the jaws ability to move forward, backward, left and right, up and down, is equal to the whole body’s ability to do the same. The jaws range of motion dictates the necks range of motion, which in turn dictates muscle mass in the rest of the body." ....which = hoof balance.