Routine equine dental care plays an essential role in your horse’s health.
Proper dental care will increase your horse’s comfort and may help him utilize feed better, perform better and even live longer. Horses were designed to be grazing animals and their teeth have adapted for that purpose. Modern horses, who eat more grain and have less turnout than their wild ancestors, tend to develop more sharp points because it takes less effort to chew grain than it does rough forage, so those points are not naturally worn off by a rough diet.
Common equine dental problems include:
- Sharp enamel points on the edges of the cheek teeth which can ulcerate or cut the cheeks and tongue.
- Retained deciduous teeth (“caps”)
- Discomfort from the bit contacting the wolf teeth
- Hooks forming on the front or back edge of the cheek teeth
- Lost or broken teeth
- Excessively worn or abnormally long teeth
- Infected teeth or gums
- Misaligned or poor apposition of teeth
Clinical signs associated with equine dental problems can include:
- Losing weight in spite of a good appetite.
- Dropping grain.
- Obvious chewing abnormalities or difficulty.
- Facial tenderness or swelling of the face or jaw.
- Quidding (accumulating or dropping wads of grass/hay).
- Foul odor from mouth or nostrils, nasal discharge.
- Head tilting, bit chewing, resisting the bit or bridle.
- Whole grain or large roughage particles in manure.
How much dental care is really needed?
Most horses need annual dental care, but the age, breed, job and conformation of a horse affects the degree and frequency of dental care required. Younger horses may require more dental care than adult horses with all of their permanent teeth. Proper care as they shed their baby teeth may help prevent pain and discomfort especially as they may associate it with training and the bit. Senior horses may also need more care as they are more likely to be losing their teeth and more prone to infections. Annual dental examination by an equine veterinarian will determine the need/frequency of dental care.