Interview with Natural Balance Equine Dentist, Spencer LaFlure
Born on a pack trip through the Adirondack Mountains of New York, Spencer grew up on his parents’ two dude ranches there. He has had a lifetime of experiences with all kinds of horses. After a successful rodeo career, he trained horses, but decided he could better help the horse through dentistry. He holds advanced certification in Natural Balance Dentistry® from Advanced Whole Horse Dentistry Learning Center. He now practices extensively throughout the United States.
After five years of research, Spencer developed a procedure he calls Natural Balance Dentistry® which consists of equilibrating the front teeth first according to each individual horse’s bars of the mouth, then going on to equilibrate or balance the back teeth to restoring centric relationship of the TMJ. He has had tremendous success with this procedure, and as he puts it, “I haven’t had a horse yet that it hasn’t worked on with fantastic results!”
Spencer’s unique, landmark development of addressing the angle of the incisors first makes profound changes throughout the horse’s body and in the stomatagnathic system as well . A balanced mouth is about a lot more than just eating, it’s neurologically of far greater importance than anyone could possibly imagine.
Spencer and his wife Judy own and operate Circle L Ranch in Thurman, New York. ________________________________________________________________________
What led to your interest in equine dentistry?
I was raised on a dude ranch in New York where we ran several hundred head of horses on an open range. Growing up around horses, I always wondered why middle-aged horses start losing their top line. This curiosity led me to attend equine dental school in Idaho.
At that school, I learned traditional equine dentistry (which is not what I use today.) I noticed that horses’ jaws still seemed to be out of balance even after having traditional dentistry work done. Hundreds of horse skulls were available to me at this school, and I began to study them. I learned several things, but primarily, that power tools take too much off the teeth too fast and provide poor dentistry. This led me to perform my own research and develop the technique I use and teach to others: Natural Balance Dentistry®.
How does Natural Balance Dentistry® differ from traditional equine dentistry?
Natural Balance Dentistry® takes each horse’s natural bite plane into consideration and balances the bite plane to the temporomandibular joint (TMJ). We focus on the length and angle of the front teeth. Our philosophy is ‘less is more’—with a little help, the mouth will find its own balance.
Natural Balance Dentistry® consists of equilibrating the front teeth first according to each individual horse’s bars of the mouth, then going on to equilibrate or balance the back teeth to restore the centric relationship of the TMJ. The focus should be on reestablishing anatomically correct bite planes and neurological function to the horse’s jaw. We’ve learned that trying to model the teeth for eating is not correct. The mouth is connected to the horse’s posture and stature and should be balanced accordingly.
By addressing the angle of the incisors first, profound changes will occur throughout the horse’s body (especially in the muscling along the top line) and in the stomatognathic system (mouth, jaws, and related structures) as well . A balanced mouth is about a lot more than just eating– it’s neurologically of far greater importance than most people know.
Natural Balance Dentistry® also allows the horse to be comfortable while being worked on. Wherever the horse’s head is comfortable is where we work from.
Traditional equine dentistry focuses on the back teeth more and the removal of edges. These dentists often create ‘bit seats’ (rolling or rounding of the first molars) which takes 16 ½% of the occlusive bite plane away.
The definition of dentistry is to balance the bite plane and create an anatomically correct bite. Unfortunately, this is not what occurs with many forms of equine dentistry being performed today.
What are some of the more common dental issues you see in horses and how are they corrected?
The biggest problem I see is when the front teeth fall out—this is caused from power floating or aggressive hand floating. The roots of the teeth can also become exposed from these types of floating.
I also see problems in the area where bit seats have been created by other dentists. Sometimes, those teeth come out when the horse is around 12-13 years old.
Does every horse need routine dentistry?
I believe it’s a personal choice and it also depends on the horse and what type of work he is in. You will have benefits if you routinely have your horse’s teeth balanced, and a balanced mouth will help prevent other problems and reduce the need for treatments such as injections, chiropractic work, etc.
Many types of equine dentistry performed today are actually more harmful than helpful to the horse though, so it is important to find someone who knows what they’re doing and will balance the teeth properly.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I don’t believe we’ve yet arrived at a true understanding of equine dentistry. There is still much to be studied and learned. We’ve come up with many good ideas, but we know there is still much more to learn.
For more information about Spencer or Balanced Equine Dentistry, visit his website.