EQUINE DENTISTRY

QUESTION: Why is it so important for my horse to see a dentist?

ANSWER: We need to see the dentist every year to make sure our teeth and mouths are healthy. Just like us, our horses need to to have regular dental check ups. They can break teeth, get infections, have sharp points that cut their cheeks and gums, get things stuck in their mouths, or have teeth that are painful with the bit. With regular dental check ups, these issues can be eliminated.

QUESTION: How often does my horse need his/her teeth "floated"?

ANSWER: If you have had your horse for more than a year and have not had their teeth checked or floated, it needs done. They need their teeth checked at least every year, and about every 6 months until they are about 5 years old. Up to age 5 they are getting their first teeth and their adult teeth. As their adult teeth come in, sometimes the baby teeth, or "caps", get stuck. When they do, this can cause some problems eating, and they may need help removing them. As adults, their teeth get sharp points or can wear unevenly. Uneven wearing can cause discomfort or pain when chewing, being collected when ridden, and even TMJ issues. Sharp points can make them bite into their cheeks or tongue, cut their gums, wear down opposing teeth, or jab their gums when a bit is used. Proper dental care can avoid these problems.

QUESTION: What are some signs that my horse needs his/her teeth checked?

ANWSER: If your horse has any of the following indicators, have the teeth/mouth checked by your vet or dental technician:

*Losing a lot of weight without explanation

*Droping feed when they eat

*Fighting the bit when stopping or turning

*Foul odor coming from the mouth

*Stinky discharge from nose

*Holding head crooked when eating

*Swelling in the jaw or between the eye and mouth

*Chewing hay into balls and spitting it out

*Sudden change in how, or how much it's eating

These are only a few symptoms that may indicate the need for dental care. Good owners know when something is 'off' with their horses. If you have ruled out other obvious causes to what is 'off', check the condition inside of the mouth.

Here are some pictures to help you see why regular oral check ups are important.

Top photo: The raised tooth toward the back can affect proper chewing. It can also prevent proper forward and backward (AP) movement of the jaw, due to being situated in a gap above it. This AP movement is crucial in horses that need to remain in a collected head carriage when being ridden. There is also a sharp edge on the front of the first tooth, as well as bit of a point started on the top. When the reins are pulled, it pulls the bit along the flesh of the gums, pressing the gums against the sharp edges and points of the teeth. This can cause the horse to fight the bit.

Bottom photo: Here you see the dental tech has leveled the high tooth and smoothed the sharpness of the first tooth.

This horse was a 12 year old Arabian Stallion. He had 2 fractured molars, one on each side, as well as very sharp points. These broken teeth can cause extreme pain when eating, dropping feed, chewing with head cocked, weight loss, and other symptoms.

This was a 7 year old Arabian Stallion. He had his teeth floated 2 years before. As you can see, his teeth had gotten so sharp during that time, that he had chewed his cheek raw.

This "hook" has likely worn away the lower tooth. As long and as sharp as it is, it was probably also cutting into the lower gums. If this had been left, it would have eventually grown into the lower jaw bone. That could cause extreme pain, loss of weight, dropping feed, loss of appetite, fighting the bit, and an overall bad attitude.

In May, 2017, Lydia graduated from the American School of Equine Dentistry in W. Virginia. This month long school, founded and led by Dr.  Raymond Hyde, DVM, taught Lydia how to properly care for horses' teeth.  She learned how to sedate horses, work on horses sedated and unsedated, minis and drafts, rescues and show horses, and use both power and hand tools. Lydia is NOT a veterinarian, but she is more than happy to work with your vet, or contact her own, to make the experience as pleasant as possible for you and your horse. Does your horse need their teeth checked? Contact Lydia today through the email on the "CONTACT" page of this website.