Dentistry has long been a focus of our practice. It is our experience that correcting a painful or malaligned mouth is one of the most immediate ways to improve the quality of a horses life. Correcting a malalignment, may allow them to more completely chew their food, which can aid in digestion and help prevent choking. It may remove a source of pain, if the points are digging into their cheeks or tongue.
Why Do Horses Need Dentists and What Do Dentists Do?
The design of the equine mouth has left many veterinarians scratching their heads. To begin with, the upper and lower rows of teeth (called “arcades”) are set with the top teeth wider than the bottom teeth. As they chew, the outsides of the top teeth and the insides of their bottom teeth do not grind against the other row of teeth. This allows them to keep growing and when not addressed, will form “points” at these locations. Secondly, the upper and lower rows of teeth are offset front to back! This means, in general, that the front of the top arcades and the back of the bottom arcades are not grinding against each other and also overgrowing. These are called “hooks”. An equine dentist will carefully file off the “points” and “hooks” and round over these areas so that the teeth do not become overgrown and sharp. This process if often called “floating”.
However, just like people, horses can have other dental problems. Cracked teeth, cavities, irritated gums are all common findings in horses that require more than just floating.
How Do I Know If My Horse Needs Dental Care?
If your horse is suddenly chewing differently than normal or dropping feed that may indicate a dental problem. Any sudden change in their temperament or behavior can also indicate oral pain. If it has been longer than a year since a veterinarian has looked inside your horse’s mouth, we recommend an oral examination. Our spring and fall wellness exams, include a dental exam along with a basic physical exam and their seasonal immunizations.