An epidemiological survey on the prevalence of equine peripheral dental caries in the United Kingdom and possible risk factors for its development

Dewi Borkent, R J M Reardon, G McLachlan, S Smith, P M Dixon

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


BACKGROUND: Equine peripheral caries (PC) is an increasingly recognised disorder that causes premature wear of teeth and dental fractures and thus has major welfare implications. Little information is available on its prevalence or severity in UK horses and there are no proven associations with any risk factors.

OBJECTIVES: To document the prevalence of PC over a wide area of the UK, assess its intra-oral distribution and severity in affected horses and examine for potential risk factors for its development.

STUDY DESIGN: Cross sectional study.

METHODS: Experienced personnel were recruited for a UK-wide dental survey on their patients during dental examinations. Established guidelines were used for grading PC. Frequency of PC occurrence was compared between teeth and dental arcades, using McNemar's tests. Potential risk factors for PC were screened using univariable logistic regression prior to building a multivariable model.

RESULTS: A total of 706 horses were examined by 25 participants, showing a 51.7% prevalence of PC (365/706). Some regional differences in prevalence were found. The PC primarily affected the cheek teeth with the 12 caudal being significantly more commonly and more severely affected than the 12 rostral cheek teeth. Most of the hypothesised risk factors including: age, breed, sex, time at pasture, and feeding of silage (haylage) were unproven. A limited association with moderate levels of concentrate feeding was observed. The presence of concurrent dental abnormalities were significantly associated with the likelihood of having PC.

MAIN LIMITATIONS: Not all regions in UK were included and there may be inconsistencies between examiners.

CONCLUSIONS: Peripheral caries is common in British horses, primarily affecting the caudal cheek teeth. There was limited evidence of an association between feeding and PC. The association between PC and concurrent dental disorders indicates that these should be addressed in affected horses. This article is protected by copyright. All rights reserved.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)480-485
Number of pages6
JournalEquine Veterinary Journal
Issue number4
Early online date16 Jul 2016
Publication statusPublished - Jul 2017


  • horse
  • dental disease
  • dental caries
  • epidemiology
  • peripheral caries


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