Dental disease is the main oral disorder of equines in the United Kingdom and is of major importance in general equine veterinary practice. Up to 10% of general equine veterinary practice time involves dental-related work. Dental disorders are much more common in older equids (and indeed generally in all species). The donkeys at The Donkey Sanctuary in Devon have an average life expectancy of 27 years - over double that recorded in many developing countries - and it is not surpirsing that periodontal disease was noted to be 'almost inevitably present' by one author when examining the aged donkeys.
Donkeys may develop dental disorders that could go unnoticed by owners. This may partly be due to the fact that owners do not feel their donkey requires regular dental examinations if they are 'not putting a bit in its mouth', and partly because some owners are not aware that donkeys frequently develop sharp enamel overgrowths or malocclusions simply from the dietary alteration of their domesticated environment. A study of 233 horses found 24% to have dental disorders present that had nto been detected by their owners, highlighting how difficult it is to detect dental disease in equids.