Why do we consider a horse’s mouth to be less of importance than its feet? Most horse owners will have their horse seen by a farrier multiple times throughout the year, but when was the last time they had its teeth examined. And how often does your horse refuse to turn to one side? It may be as simple as having its teeth looked at. Horses have a unique dental arrangement in that their teeth continually erupt throughout their life. Because of this continual eruption they require regular examination and care.
ROUTINE DENTAL EXAMINATIONS ARE ESSENTIAL to your horse’s health and importantly comfort of the mouth. It is generally accepted in the veterinary world that your horse should have its teeth examined at least once a year if not twice, depending on each individual horses circumstances.
ORAL EXAMS SHOULD START AT BIRTH to check for any congenital conformation problems to begin the process to rectify these. Younger horses between the age of 1.5 and 5 years old can sometimes require more frequent dental exams because juvenile teeth tend to be softer and for this reason can develop sharp enamel points at a quicker rate. Between these ages, younger horses will also be shedding deciduous teeth, commonly seen as caps during dental treatment and erupting adult teeth (36-40 teeth). Because it takes 5 years for adult teeth to all erupt, dental care during this time is paramount to ensure comfort for the horse and preventing training problems due to sharp teeth ulcerating the tongue and cheeks.
COMMON DENTAL PROBLEMS AND DISEASES that we see as vets, include: sharp enamel points, hooks (as seen in this picture, mal-eruptions (retained baby teeth), pulling wolf teeth, broken teeth, periodontal diseases, and tooth loss. With routine dental examinations, treatment usually involves removing any sharp points or hooks that have developed.
SIGNS that a horse may need to have its teeth examined include: dropping feed while chewing, foul smell in the oral cavity, nasal discharge, and rotating the head while chewing to get food to the “good side” of the mouth. Performance-related issues that may indicate dental problems in horses with a bit in their mouth include refusal to work, head tossing/shaking and not turning to one side.
Here at Rangiora Vet Centre, we offer a complete range of dental care for your horse, including the use of a power dental float, and crush facilities. If you have any queries relating to the article or would like a dental examination of your horse please contact the clinic to be put in touch with a member of our equine veterinary team.