Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry™

Spencer LaFlure’s school for Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry™ is a progressive school with about 40 currently certified practitioners world wide. Our understanding of equine dentistry and TMJ function as it relates to the whole horse is in constant development and evolution. Certified Neuromuscular Horse Dentists include equine osteopaths, bodyworkers, veterinarians, competitive performance riders, trimmers and farriers.

Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry™ is absolutely beneficial to all horses and is a valuable contribution to any horse’s wellness. Over the years we have been very successful helping horses improve, oftentimes efficiently and profoundly, with a broad spectrum of issues including the following:

  • Posture, and the ability to develop and maintain topline
  • Neuromuscular health, affecting muscular development, tension patterns and movement throughout the body
  • Whole Body Balance and longevity in soundness
  • Relaxation and alignment through the entire spine, affecting straightness and suppleness in training
  • Range of motion through the limbs influencing hoof balance and wear patterns
  • Proprioception – understanding and awareness of the body and limbs in space, including foot placement
  • More easily accessed and maintained relaxation and softness in the jaw, poll and whole body, leading to improved comfort and focus during life and work
  • Improved alignment and lateral flexion through the atlantooccipital junction, “poll” and neck.
  • Sacral and hind end biomechanics; ability to tilt the pelvis and “come under” behind.
  • Better and more lasting results from osteopathy, chiropractic, massage, and bodywork sessions
  • Digestive health; ability to chew, produce saliva and enzymes affecting bacterial balance in the hind gut. This can affect ulcer management.
  • Insulin processing and glucose levels
  • Improved parasympathetic nervous system function increases processing and learning abilities and decreases behavioral issues.
  • Improved hormonal balance
  • Improved geriatric body condition

Spencer LaFlure began creating the practice of Natural Balance Dentistry™ about twenty years ago, followed closely by the establishment of his learning center and school. As our practice continues to progress and change, the title Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry™ is more reflective of our current research and results.

Spencer was enrolled in the Academy of Equine Dentistry in Glenns Ferry, Idaho and observed hundreds of skulls that were preserved before the practice of powerfloating and what is today’s version of veterinary and equine dentistry. He reached the ultimate conclusion that pathologies in the mouth such as hooks, ramps, waves and sharp points occur with deterioration of the natural angles and guidance system in the teeth. Irregular wear patterns are a result of imbalances in the TMJ rotation, affected most directly through the floating process and specifically through the delicate balance in the incisors. Spencer developed the understanding that there is a three point balance between the incisors, molars, and TMJ, which affects the whole horse from head to tail and toes. 

Natural Inclination in Upper Molar Tables

The incisors offer guidance for the temporal mandibular joints, and wear patterns including pathologies in the molars are simply an expression of movement and rotation patterns in the TMJs. As the horse chews in a natural state, the jaw rotates through a range of motion and the molar tables slide across each other grinding the food. Specific types of vibration during this sliding and grinding stimulate the periodontal ligaments and create natural eruption response in the teeth. All changes made during floating have lasting effects on eruption of the teeth throughout the horse’s lifetime.

The angles and surface texture of the teeth are always altered by floating, and are critical components to healthy TMJs and neuromuscular function through the whole body. The periodontal ligaments connect each tooth directly to the horse’s facial nerves and greater neurological system. Floating the sharp points off without careful consideration for the individual’s anatomy, or floating the teeth to an abnormal, smooth texture can permanently alter tooth composition, TMJ Alignment and Whole Body Balance. Making teeth smooth and flat is not in alignment with the natural and dynamic angles and curves of a horse’s mouth, and will dramatically alter TMJ function and rotation, changing neural pathways through the whole body. 

It is beneficial for us to have awareness of the hyoid, from which the tongue is suspended in the mouth. As the horse chews, the tongue rotates in the mouth to form a bolus composed of the food material and saliva which contains enzymes to aid in digestion. Changes to the teeth creating abnormal rotation in the TMJs will affect rotation of the tongue and movement through the hyoid apparatus. The hyoid is a primary component of the stomatognathic system, and connects intricately with the whole body through soft tissue and fascial networks. When the hyoid is not functioning optimally, additional pressure on the tongue as often occurs with use of a bit, can cause the horse to become tense and reactive in the TMJ areas, poll and entire body.

With or without use of a bit, TMJ Alignment directly influences the horse’s ability to soften through the jaw and achieve relaxed movement at the atlantooccipital joint (the poll). Relaxation, mobility and lateral flexion at the poll allows alignment and flexion both laterally and longitudinally, through the entire spinal column. This affects posture, Whole Body Balance, biomechanics and flexion down through the horse’s limbs, intertwined significantly with everything down to balance in the feet and hoof wear patterns.

With the use of ergonomically designed instruments a Neuromuscular Horse Dentist will help the horse find correct anatomical alignment and stability in the incisors, molars and temporomandibular joint. We work to maximize surface to surface contact of the teeth, taking into account eruption and wear rates, and restoring anatomically correct inclination of the molar tables to the individual horse. This creates a positive cycle in which less work will need to be done over time to maintain the balanced wear patterns in the teeth. The horse will be standing in a relaxed natural stature during the work, allowing for continuous feedback, gradual acclimation, and minimal stress on the TMJs, neck and body.

The eruption rate of teeth decreases as the horse ages, which is critical to acknowledge when working with older horses, in order to promote optimal natural function and prevent irreparable imbalances in the mouth and body, that can be caused by inappropriate floating in the geriatric horse. The bones of the TMJs will morph according to rotation patterns over time, and so an older horse with imbalances may benefit most from regular and appropriate bodywork that addresses release of the TMJs, hyoid, poll and whole body.

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