• horse;
  • dentistry;
  • cheek teeth;
  • secondary dentine;
  • subocclusal dentinal thickness


Reasons for performing study: There is limited knowledge on the thickness of subocclusal secondary dentine in equine cheek teeth (CT).

Hypotheses: Subocclusal secondary dentine is of consistent thickness above different pulp horns in individual horses and its thickness increases with age.

Methods: 408 permanent CT were extracted post mortem from 17 horses aged 4–30 years, with no history of dental disease. The CT were sectioned longitudinally in the medio-lateral (bucco-palatal/lingual) plane through each pulp horn, and the thickness of the secondary dentine overlying each pulp horn was measured directly.

Results: The subocclusal thickness of secondary dentine above the pulp horns of CT varied from a mean thickness (above all pulp horns) of 12.8 mm (range 5–33 mm) in a 4-year-old to 7.5 mm (range 2–24 mm) in a 16-year-old horse. There was wide variation in the depth of subocclusal secondary dentine above different pulp horns, even within the same CT. In contrast to expectations, occlusal secondary dentine thickness did not increase with age. There were no significant differences in occlusal secondary dentine thickness between rostral and caudal, or medial and lateral aspects of the CT, or between contralateral CT. Mandibular CT had significantly thicker subocclusal secondary dentine than maxillary CT. Pink coloured secondary dentine was sometimes found 1–3 mm occlusal to the pulp horn in sectioned CT and this was likely caused by artefactual blood staining from the underlying pulp during sectioning.

Conclusions: The thickness of subocclusal secondary dentine varies greatly between individual pulp horns, teeth and individual horses and can be as low as 2 mm over individual pulp horns.

Potential relevance: Due to the great variation in the thickness of subocclusal secondary dentine between horses, and even between pulp horns in individual CT, there is a risk of exposure or thermal damage to pulp and thus of apical infection, even with modest therapeutic reductions of CT occlusal overgrowths. In the light of these findings, great care should be taken when reducing equine CT overgrowths and larger dental overgrowths should be reduced in stages.