Equine Dental Care: The Need-to-Know

October 12, 2018 3 min read

Equine Dentistry is an essential part of health care for your horse. Your horse’s teeth should be examined at least once a year. Horses' teeth grow and change throughout their lifetime; therefore, we have the ability to tell a horse’s approximate age by its teeth. The adult male horse has up to 44 permanent teeth, and a mare may have between 36-40 permanent teeth. Their teeth are divided into two major sections: the incisors, which are the teeth seen in the front of the horse's mouth, and the cheek teeth, made up of the premolars and molars. The molars and premolars are lined up tightly against each other, creating the appearance of one chewing surface. Like humans, horses get two sets of teeth in their lifetime. Fun Fact: The baby teeth, also known as deciduous teeth, are temporary. By age five, most horses will have their full set of permanent teeth. Due to the major role the teeth play, if teeth or gums are painful, infected, or missing, the affected horse will not be able to chew their food properly and will rapidly lose condition. Therefore, horses require regular dental attention to catch problems early and ensure their teeth stay in good condition. Tip: Most horses will have to have their teeth floated at least once per year. Floating is the practice of filing off any sharp edges or hooks that may form on the edges of the teeth.

Signs of Dental problems:

  1. Changes in eating or drinking habits
  2. Bumps or enlargement on jaw/side of face
  3. Weight loss
  4. Long, unchewed particles of hay in manure
  5. Resistance to bit pressure
  6. Foul smelling, chronic nasal discharge from one nostril
  7. Swelling, or bleeding from mouth
  8. Head tossing
  9. Bit chewing

Signs of Advanced Dental Disease:

  1. Reddening of gums (gingivitis)
  2. Packing of feed between teeth
  3. Broken or missing teeth

Common dental issues:

Excessive Transverse Ridges- Patterns that look like an old-fashioned washboard. Routine dental procedures can smooth out these ridges. Hooks- Sharp protrusions on the tooth, commonly caused by an overbite (parrot mouth) or an underbite (sow mouth) - these cause extreme discomfort. Ramps -A wear pattern that occurs on the premolar most commonly and is described as looking like a ski ramp. This abnormal wear pattern can stick into the cheeks or tongue of the horse, causing them significant pain. Step Mouth - An abnormal occlusion caused by a tooth missing or mis-spaced tooth on the opposite side of the horse’s mouth. Wave Mouth -Apotential serious problem, as the horse will not be able to grind their food properly to get all the possible nutrients that they need from their feed. This is caused by one or more teeth in the dental arcade that are growing at a higher rate of speed than the rest of the teeth. Most Equine Dental Care involves prevention. If your horse’s teeth are regularly cared for, the maintenance process will not be overwhelming, and you should be able to avoid most dental or health complications. Depending on your horse’s diet, hardness of teeth and jaw alignment, they may need floating on an annual basis or perhaps he could last years between floating. By keeping an eye on your horse’s teeth, you can determine how quickly your horse’s dental surfaces are changing and get them cared for before complications arise. For times of jaw soreness, Benefab by Sore No-More's Smart Therapeutic Poll Pad may be able to help. By applying the poll pad to the sides of the halter during rest time, your horse can get the extra benefits of ceramic therapy easily and effectively along the jaw. The Poll Pad is made up of ceramic Nano- Particles and features 2 magnets in the center of the poll to further stimulate those points. It can also be used over the Poll, Nose band, Chin strap, or Brow Band on the halter or bridle for other cases.

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