Occlusal fissures of the equine cheek tooth: Prevalence, location and association with disease in 91 horses referred for dental investigation



Reason for performing study: Fissures of the occlusal surface of the equine cheek tooth are poorly understood and their association with dental disease is unknown.

Objective: To describe the prevalence and location of occlusal fissures in the cheek teeth (CT) of a group of horses referred for dental investigation/treatment, and determine association with intercurrent dental disease.

Methods: Digital video recordings of oral endoscopic examinations for all horses referred to the Rossdales Equine Hospital for dental investigation from November 2006 to June 2009 were reviewed. Location of occlusal fissures in relation to both Triadan tooth position and pulpar secondary dentine was recorded; direction of fissure and concurrent involvement of enamel was also documented. The CT location considered at the time of examination to be the primary site/s of disease was correlated with presence of fissures on these teeth.

Results: 91 cases meeting the inclusion criteria were identified. Occlusal fissures were documented in 58.2% (53/91) cases, with a total of 227 CT being affected. Fissures were most prevalent mid-arcade. The majority (92.1%) of fissures in maxillary CT were associated with the caudal palatal pulp horn. Fissures in mandibular CT were predominantly associated with the buccal pulp horns (95.7%). There was no significant difference in the median number of CT with fissures in relation to gender. There was no correlation between age (r2= 0.01) of horse and number of CT with fissures. A significantly greater number of CT with multiple occlusal fissures was found in mandibular compared to maxillary arcades. No correlation was found between presence of fissures and location of individual CT considered to be primarily responsible for presentation.

Conclusions: Occlusal fissures in this group of animals were common and not correlated to primary site of dental disease.

Potential relevance: In horses subjected to dental investigation, occlusal fissures of the cheek teeth should not be considered an indicator of tooth compromise. Location and direction of fissure propagation in most cases is inconsistent with occlusal fissures being causally implicated in slab fractures of cheek teeth, although site predilection may indicate a possible association with masticatory forces.