The Horses Teeth
The only time many owners look in their horses' mouth
is to check age or to give a dewormer,
but it is important to
pay as much
attention to our horses' dental health as we do to other areas of equine
Tooth problems in horses
are common because their teeth never stop
The majority of horses have poor mouths as a result of irregular
signs of neglecting the
horse's mouth could include:
1) Discomfort while eating. The horse will drop a lot of feed while
chewing, or turn his head to one side while chewing.
Some horses may even become timid about eating, appearing to have
less of an appetite.
or other undigested grains in the manure due to
improper chewing. This can result in loss
of nutrients for the
horse making it
unthrifty and unhealthy.
3) Avoidance of the bit, or head tossing.
4) Poor athletic performance
5) Behavioral problem
6) Poor coat and condition
7) Colic can also be caused by bad teeth
Horses, like people, have two sets of teeth:
"deciduous" (temporary) teeth, also known
as milk teeth, and permanent
The milk teeth are smaller, smoother
and whiter than permanent adult teeth that replace them.
Foals begin to
get teeth within a few weeks of life and by 9 months
they have a full set of "deciduous" (temporary) teeth, numbering 24.
These first teeth are
sequentially replaced by permanent teeth
next five or six years.
After that point, mature
teeth continue to grow,
wear and gradually wear
out over the course of the horse's life. The adult teeth
are strong, large
and yellowish in color. By the time a horse is six years
he will have a full set permanent teeth.
An oral exam is the best way to check for dental problems.
veterinarian needs to provide regular dental
in the interest of maintaining the
good health of your horse.
Today we recommend that horses begin to have their
checked for uneven wear as yearlings
and that they are checked
six months for the rest of their lives.
is beneficial in
improving food utilization and therefore general health.
If the horse does not have regular dental check-ups
his teeth become so uneven it makes it difficult
for the animal to do
an adequate job of grinding food.
Horses chew their food by grinding their teeth from side to side.
movement results in sharp edges forming along the cheek surface
(outside) of the upper teeth
tongue surface (inside)
of the lower teeth. This
causes their teeth to wear down on one side of the upper jaw and the
opposite side of the lower jaw.
A ridge is left which becomes
and can cut your horse's tongue or cheeks creating sores that
the bit may
the edges of the tooth can elongate
and become very sharp,
cutting into the opposing cheek and gums
causing sores and ulcers.
Also, many horses are not
exposed to a natural grazing position,
when eating from raised
produces a difference in the rotation of the jaw during
can also lead to the development
Due to trauma, such as a kick or a fall, horses can even lose a tooth
occasionally. This gives the
opposing tooth nothing
it will continue to grow out from the jaw.
In severe cases, this unopposed
tooth will even keep growing
left by the lost tooth.
This can bind the jaw movement, making it very difficult for the horse to
A vet should file any ridges or points down at
least once a year. This procedure is called "floating the teeth". Veterinarians
use a metal speculum or mouth gag to aid in the
examination of the teeth and gums.
If points are found, your vet will file
sharp edge smooth using a number of tools called floats.
Before introducing the bit
to any horse it is essential that his teeth be in optimum condition. It is
necessary to remove
enough of the tooth surfaces by "floating", to prevent teeth form
contacting one another at all because
some snaffle bits force a portion
of the cheeks between these teeth. It is not difficult to imagine how
laceration of these
tissues may cause tenderness in the mouth
which could develop into resentment to the bit.
Whenever there is a bit problem first check the
condition of your horse's teeth. The most common tooth culprit
is the wolf
Wolf teeth are much smaller and sharper than the rest making them
very easy to spot.
The wolf teeth are located in front of the
of the back set of teeth. This area is very close to where
the mouth piece
of a bit will lay. The bit coming in contact
with the wolf teeth
very painful to a horse.
If your horse has wolf teeth a veterinarian can
easily remove them.
Dental Exams Vary With Horse's Age
Severe dental problems are frequently
The dentistry procedures performed on your horse vary according to the
seen in older horses and are a prime
cause of poor weight,
poor coat and general lack of condition.
horses can have dental problems as well.
Recognition of congenital
abnormalities such as "parrot mouth" or "sow mouth" begin at an early age.
Both conditions are
be inherited and are considered an unsoundness. Depending on the degree of
contact between between the front
treatment can be performed in cases of "parrot mouth" provided the foal is
under six months of age. Surprisingly,
sharp edges can
occur with the baby teeth at this early age and floating may be required.
Yearlings and Two Year
Wolf teeth should be
extracted before any training with the bit is started. These are small
teeth with short roots sitting against
front of the upper cheek teeth. They serve no functions (similar to our
wisdom teeth) other than to cause irritation when the
against them. If the wolf teeth are displaced or delayed in eruption,
interference with the bit may also occur.
Three Year Olds
Deciduous (baby) teeth can
be so firmly lodged that the underlying permanent teeth become impacted.
Food lodges in between
causing discomfort and infection. This occurs more often with deciduous
cheek teeth commonly referred to as "caps". It is not
uncommon to have to reexamine a 3 year olds mouth repetitively in order to
remove 2-3 sets of caps as they become ready since
they may shed a total of eight to twelve caps and four to six incisors
Four Year Olds
If not shed late in their
3 year old year the caps from the third set of cheek teeth become ready
Impacted teeth may become
infected. The infection may extend into the jaw or sinuses. As in three
year olds, removal of caps
floating (removal of sharp edges) is performed in this age group.
Five Years and Older
Dentistry in this age
group includes removal of hooks present on the first and last cheek teeth,
floating of sharp edges and
of the first cheek teeth in performance horses to provide comfortable "bitting".
This "performance floating" prevents
ulcers or cuts from
developing by ensuring a smooth contact between the cheeks or tongue
against the first cheek teeth.
encountered in the aged horse include uneven wear resulting in weave mouth
and/or hooks on the first and
last cheek teeth, gingivitis, abscesses and loss of teeth. All these conditions can
seriously affect the way the horses chews and
digests food. Weight loss or colic may result if left untended.
Dentistry for the adult
horse should be performed on an annual basis and should include biannual
oral exams and a thorough