Horses are grazing animals whose teeth continue to erupt and wear throughout their lifetime. The front teeth (incisors) shear the grass while the premolars and molars grind the feed before swallowing. We demand more from our performance horses at an earlier age and select breeding animals without regard to dental conformation. For these reasons, yearly dental care is important for the health of the domestic horse.
Recognizing Dental Problems
Dental problems can cause serious health and behavioral issues. Horses with dental problems may show obvious signs, such as pain or irritation, or they may show no signs at all, simply adapting to their discomfort. For this reason, yearly examination by a veterinarian is essential.
The most common dental problem is sharp enamel points that can cause lacerations on the cheek or tongue. The horse’s lower jaw is narrower than its upper jaw, and the horse grinds its feed with a sideways motion causing sharp points to form along the edges. Misalignment of teeth (malocclusion) may cause dental overgrowths such as large hooks, ramps, waves, excessive transverse ridges or excessively long or worn teeth. Other common dental problems are retained baby teeth, loose teeth and periodontal infections.
Correcting Dental Problems
Rounding the sharp points from a horse’s teeth is called “FLOATING.” Many dental overgrowths are greater than a manual float can correct. Teeth that once were neglected or cut manually, risking fracture, can now be safely reduced with the use of our power equipment. The reduction of dental overgrowths is called “ODONTOPLASTY.”
To make your horse more comfortable during the examination and treatment, a mild sedative and/or nerve block will be administered before the procedure. Sedation allows for a safe and thorough examination, diagnosis and treatment.