Objective To quantify the temperature changes in the dental pulp associated with equine dental procedures using power grinding equipment.

Design A matrix experimental design with replication on the same sample was followed to allow the following independent variables to be assessed: horse age (young or old), tooth type (premolar or molar), powered grinding instrument (rotating disc or die grinder), grinding time (15 or 20 seconds) and the presence or absence of water coolant.

Procedure Sound premolar and molar teeth from a 6-year-old horse and a 15-year-old horse, which had been removed postmortem, were sectioned parallel to the occlusal plane to allow placement of a miniature thermocouple at the level of the dental pulp. The maximum temperature increase, the time taken to reach this maximum and the cooling time were measured (n=10 in each study). The teeth were placed in a vice and the instrument used on the tooth as per clinical situation.

Results Significant differences were recorded for horse age (P < 0.001), instrument type (P < 0.001), grinding time (P < 0.001) and presence or absence of coolant (P < 0.001). There was no significant difference for tooth type.

Conclusion Thermal insult to the dental pulp from the use of power instruments poses a significant risk to the tooth. This risk can be reduced or eliminated by appropriate selection of treatment time and by the use of water irrigation as a coolant. The increased dentine thickness in older horses appears to mitigate against thermal injury from frictional heat.