You may know that your vet needs to periodically “float” your horse’s teeth, but do you know what that entails and why it’s important? What other dental problems are horses prone to? And what are the signs that something is wrong with your horse’s dental health? Here’s everything you should know about horse teeth.
#1 - Horse teeth grow continuously
A horse’s teeth grow continuously throughout his life - up to a point. If a horse lives long enough, the teeth will eventually stop growing and get worn down to the nubs, at which point he’ll need an extruded “pre-chewed” senior feed.
#2 - They may be ground down unevenly
Horses don’t chew using an up and down motion like humans. They use a circular grinding motion that can wear down their teeth unevenly. The resulting pointy teeth need to be filed down, or “floated,” to avoid problems such as mouth sores, difficulty chewing, and injuries to other horses during play.
#3 - There are no nerves inside the teeth
A horse’s nerves end close to the gumline, so they don’t feel any nerve pain when their teeth are filed down. Don’t you wish the same were true for you? Dentist visits would be much more tolerable!
#4 - Horses start with “baby” teeth
Just like humans, horses have two sets of teeth in their lifetime. The deciduous “baby” teeth should fall out by the time a horse is five years old. If they don’t fall out by themselves, they may need to be removed by the vet.
#5 - The word “float” refers to the file used
The vet will usually sedate your horse to keep them relaxed during a floating procedure. A special halter attached to a barn rafter keep your horse’s head up, while a mouth speculum keeps your horse’s mouth open. The vet may use either a manual file or a power tool to flatten the high points on your horse’s teeth.
#6 - Horses are at risk of a number of different dental problems
You don't need to brush your horse's teeth on a daily basis, but that doesn't mean they aren't prone to certain problems. They get dirty, they can be chipped, and they can get worn down in painful ways. If you're a horse owner, you need to be aware of these common equine dental problems:
- Infected teeth or gums
- Gum disease
- Excessively worn teeth
- Loose or broken teeth
#7 - Symptoms of dental problems may include:
While those common equine dental problems are sometimes hard to spot, horses always show symptoms when things aren't quite right in their mouths. The mouth is a sensitive area, and pain and discomfort can affect your horse's behavior and even their personality. If you horse is showing any of these signs, there's probably something wrong with their oral health.
- Resisting the bridle
- Excessive bit chewing
- Difficult handling while riding
- Head tossing
- Loss of feed from mouth or undigested food particles in manure
- Difficulty chewing
- Weight loss
- Excessive salivation
- Blood or foul odor in mouth
Not all horses will display symptoms of dental problems, so it’s important to have your vet check his teeth regularly.