Every horse, every year should have a dental exam. Some will require bi-annual exams –young horses, geriatric horses, performance horses, and horses with existing maloclussions. Preventing problems is much less costly than correcting them.
They should be examined at birth to determine if they have any congenital abnormalities. Routine dental work should begin as yearlings or two year olds. The equine tooth erupts 2-3 mm per year which can result in major overgrowths creating maloclussions as the horse ages.
Wolf teeth are not used for mastication (chewing) – they can interfere with the bit causing the horse discomfort. Not all horses develop wolf teeth, but they can occur in both sexes. Canine teeth (tushes, bridle teeth) are predominantly seen in stallions and geldings and are used for fighting. Bit placement should be well behind the canines, whereas bits often sit very adjacent to the wolf teeth. Wolf teeth are routinely extracted; canine teeth are not.
Horses teeth have 4-5” of reserve crown which diminishes as the horse eats throughout its lifetime – tooth loss typically starts to occur when the horse is mid to late 20’s.
My horse does not exhibit any problems when he eats or in the bridle and he looks fat. Should I still have his teeth checked?
Absolutely. Horses with dental maloclussions can be asymptomatic (showing no signs) for years before you suspect there is a problem.
Depending on the case, it may take as little as 20-30 minutes or as long as a hour or more. Horses that have annual routine dental work and no maloclussions take less time than horses that have never been had dental work or are in need of corrections.
In order for me to provide the best care for your horse in the safest possible manner, a mild standing sedation will allow me to perform a thorough dental exam and the necessary work to keep your horse comfortable and healthy, without injury to you, your horse or myself during the procedure. In the state of Virginia, dental technicians must work under veterinary supervision by law when performing work with motorized equipment or extractions.
My horse has been shaking its head/unwilling to turn/ unwilling to stop when being ridden. Could this be caused by a dental problem?
Behavioral or training issues are often the result of oral pain resulting from dental abnormalities.
It’s not uncommon to see 3 year olds with bumps on the mandible or maxilla – these “eruption cysts” are the result of permanent teeth developing and should regress in 3-6 months.
Quidding (dropping clusters of grass/hay out of the mouth) are a sure sign of a dental abnormality.
Yes, miniature horses have a higher incidence of dental abnormalities than other breeds.
Have a question about dental care for your horse? Ask Amanda!