Friday, December 2, 2011 at 6:12AM
admin in Equine Dentist, Equine Dentistry, Equine Health, Horse Dentist, Horse Dentistry, Horse Teeth Care, Horses Teeth, Kelleyerin Clabaugh, Retained Caps, Step Mouth, University of Munich, Views from the Professionals, Wayne Dale, Wolf Teeth

Skull of a young horse shows how far the long cheek teeth extend into the jaw.

Skull of a young horse shows how far the long cheek teeth extend into the jaw.
(Photo : Wayne Dale - Equine Dentist)

The Importance of Regular Dental Care for your Horse.
From the Horse's Mouth!

Regular dental checks and floating of your horses teeth is recommended, at least annually, to ensure that your horse is not uncomfortable when eating or being ridden and ensuring maximum digestibility of your feed and general good health.

Gauteng based Equine Dentist, Wayne Dale, gives us some background on horses' teeth and illustrates a few problems that can arise :

Ensuring that your horse's teeth are in a good condition should be an important part of any horse owner's routine. A set of bad teeth can impair the performance, comfort and well being of a horse immensely.

In the wild, horses would roam about for most of the day, whilst grazing rougher grasses, leaves of trees, bushes and assorted vegetation using their jaws extensively. While masticating or chewing they would continually look around for any danger because they are animals of flight.

Domesticated horses' teeth wear differently to wild horses because they are fed softer grasses, cereals, grain, pellets, etc and are kept in stables. They are fed in bins either raised off the floor or on the floor and hay nets hanging from a wall, with no need to look around whilst chewing.

Horses have hypsodont teeth (these teeth have high or deep crowns and short roots, and continue erupting throughout life). They thus need opposing wear to keep them in check. As a result of domestication, eating softer foods, and the way that they eat, horses do not have their teeth worn down naturally and can develop focal overgrowths, hooks and ramps.

Unmaintained teeth develop malocclusions (abnormal and uneven wear), shortening the horses' life, and affecting the comfort while chewing.

Uneven tooth wear may cause development of sharp edges, reducing chewing, and thus digestive efficiency, interfering with jaw motion, and in extreme cases, cutting the tongue or cheeks. This makes being ridden very painful and can lead to disobediences and inadequate performance.

Sharp enamel points develop on the outside of upper cheek teeth (buccal edges) and inside of lower cheek teeth (lingual).

"Hooks" can occur on the front (anterior) of the first upper cheek teeth #106 and #206.

"Ramps" occur at the back (posterior) of the last lower molars #311 and #411.

Some notable dental problems :

Other problems :

Symptoms of dental problems could include :

The following problems, during riding, could possibly be due to teeth issues :

In a recent study done by Kelleyerin Clabaugh, DVM, at the University of Munich, all the horses in the study were able to chew feed more thoroughly after flotation. It is recommended that owners have a veterinary dental practitioner provide routine dental care before a horse begins displaying signs of discomfort or difficulty chewing. The resulting increased digestibility means greater conversion of feed to energy and - ideally - reduced feed bills.

For all horses over the age of five, veterinarians suggest an annual oral examination to identify enamel points prior to horses developing further dental disease, while younger horses should have their teeth checked every six months. As dental care is important not just for maintaining weight and comfort but also for ensuring a horse is able to perform at his best, the "right" time to float a horse's teeth might be sooner than you think.

As they say: "prevention is better than cure".

Article originally appeared on Vuma Horse Feeds (
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