Equine Dentistry Information

ArticleHow To - HealthThursday 06 May 2010
Equine Dentists Advice

Equine dentistry is extremely important for horses, just as dental care is for humans. By ensuring that a horse’s teeth are kept in the best condition, overall performance is improved, and there is better food value absorption. Everyday life for horses can be a nightmare if they have not had correct equine dentist care. Tooth edges can become very sharp, causing discomfort, especially when the horse is working on the bit. This is why equine dentists are so important for a horse’s health. See the following guide to equine dentistry. 

Horse teeth
Adult horses have 6 front teeth, 12 cheek teeth, and 12 molars. Male horses have an extra 4 teeth that are canine teeth remains. Also, some horses develop smaller teeth called wolf teeth. 
Human teeth erupt and stop growing at a particular point. This is not the same for horse teeth as they grow throughout a horse’s life, and are only worn down from eating. Food for domesticated horses does not wear their teeth down sufficiently, and so equine dentists are required to rasp regularly. This helps the horse to chew without problems. 
When grinding food becomes too much, the upper cheek horse teeth develop sharp edges. This can result in rubbing and lacerations in the tongue and inner cheek area. Serious problems can arise as an effect. Equine dentists can perform rasping in order to prevent these sharp edges from taking shape in the first place. 
All vets in the UK are legally able to treat a horse’s teeth. However, certain vets will have less equine dentistry experience and knowledge. In this instance, you may be referred to a more suitable equine dentist such as an EDT (Equine Dental Technician) who will be registered with the British Equine Veterinary Association. 
There is no set timeframe for how frequently your horse should have dental care. Generally, once a year is the norm. This will obviously vary depending on whether you think your equine is showing symptoms of unhealthy teeth. These include:
  • Horse drops food when eating
  • Horse tilts head when riding
  • Horse is resistant to the bit
As with wisdom teeth in humans, wolf teeth in horses may require extraction. Nowadays, it depends on whether these extra horse teeth are causing problems for the horse. If they are not, then they need not be removed.
For herbivores it is particularly important to be able to chew their food thoroughly before swallowing and digesting. You might say ‘dentistry for a horse hasn’t always been available and horses have survived’ yes that is true but we have interfered in ways which make a horse dentist essential. 
Importance of Dentistry for a Horse
  • By domesticating horses we have changed their diet and feeding pattern which has affected their tooth wear
  • We put a bit in our horse’s mouths which can injure the tongue and other structures in the mouth when not used properly
  • Horses are living longer due to our care and attention which ultimately might lead to dental problems in later life
  • Dental health isn’t considered often when breeding horses
  • In the wild, horses with anatomical defects in the mouth may not have survived natural selection to pass on the ‘bad’ genes to future generations
  • By interfering with breeding and creating miniature horses they can suffer from overcrowding as their teeth are too large for their mouths
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