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 primary component to support 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
- Relaxation and alignment through the entire spine, affecting straightness and suppleness in training
- 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, affecting range of motion through the hind limbs.
- Improved, lasting results from osteopathy, chiropractic, massage, and bodywork sessions following dentistry.
- 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 teaches that pathologies in the mouth such as hooks, ramps, waves and sharp points develop according to balance and movement patterns through the TMJs. Occlusion patterns and angles in the teeth stabilize and guide the TMJs, and movement patterns through the TMJs create patterns of wear in the teeth over time. We can affect these patterns most primarily by floating practices, and especially through the delicate balance in the incisors. There is a three point balance between the incisors, molars, and TMJ, which affects the whole horse from head to tail and toes.
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 at the end of each rotation. Specific types of vibration during “translation” (the sliding and grinding across of the molar tables) 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 both critical components for healthy TMJs and neuromuscular function through the whole body. Each tooth is connected through the periodontal ligaments, to the horse’s facial nerves, cranial nerve pathways, and greater neurological system. Changing texture and angles in the teeth can permanently alter tooth composition and eruption patterns. Floating teeth smooth and flat can dramatically alter TMJ function, neural pathways and movement patterns through the whole body.
The tongue is suspended from the hyoid in the horse’s mouth. As the horse chews in a natural state, the tongue rotates to form a bolus containing feed and saliva. Changes to the TMJ rotation patterns affect rotation of the tongue, and movement patterns 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 movement patterns through the jaw and tongue are stable and healthy, it is possible to educate the horse to release the jaw, poll and neck, using a bit.
With or without use of a bit, dental alignment of the TMJs directly influences the horse’s ability to soften through the jaw and achieve relaxed movement at the atlantooccipital junction (“the poll”). Relaxation, mobility and lateral flexion at the poll, affects alignment and flexion both laterally and longitudinally, through the neck and entire spinal column. This affects posture, relaxation, nervous system function, and movement patterns through the whole body, including range of motion through the horse’s limbs, and the ongoing production of hoof wear patterns.
Neuromuscular Horse Dentists use small hand floats and a speculum to restore and maintain healthy occlusion patterns through the full mouth, that affect the alignment of the TMJs. Horses stand in a relaxed natural posture during the work, which allows for natural alignment of the jaw, continuous feedback for the practitioner, gradual acclimation to the adjustments, and minimal stress on the horse’s TMJs, neck and body.
It is important to take into account eruption and wear rates and functional anatomy of the skull that varies for each individual horse. The process of Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry™ creates a positive feedback cycle over time, in which the TMJs produce naturally balanced wear patterns in the teeth as the horse chews. Because the tooth is finite, less floating required to maintain balanced wear, increases longevity through the teeth and body as the horse ages. The bones of the TMJs adapt to rotation patterns over time, and an older horse with previously existing imbalances may benefit most from regular and appropriate bodywork that addresses release of the TMJs, hyoid, and poll.
To learn more about Neuromuscular Horse Dentistry, visit: http://www.neuromuscularhorsedentistry.com
Or check out the resources page here.