What is involved with equine dental exams?

During your horse's routine wellness visit, the veterinarian will do their best to inspect the horse's mouth. The only way to fully evaluate the oral health of a horse is to sedate them and put a full mouth speculum in place. This allows the vet to inspect not only the incisors, but also the cheek teeth or molars, as well as all the soft tissue structures, the tongue, the gingiva, and everything else surrounding the oral cavity.

Dr. Jesse Saul
Aspen Veterinary Clinic

How does dental care impact the health or the well-being of my horse?

Horses are unique because their teeth are constantly erupting throughout their entire life. Therefore, dental maintenance is essential for every horse, similar to trimming their feet and getting them shod. If a horse doesn't maintain optimal oral health, it can lead to problems ranging from weight loss to something as severe as colic.

How soon should you make an appointment with an equine dentist or specialist if you suspect something's wrong with a horse's teeth?

Any of our vets, including myself, can perform this procedure here at Aspen Vet Clinic. It doesn't require a specialist. The routine procedure to 'float' teeth is to smooth out any abnormalities generated from normal mastication, or chewing. Horses chew in a circular pattern and grind their hay into smaller bits. But as they chew, they wear down small pieces of their teeth. Over time, this can create things called points or hooks, which can cause irritation in the mouth. If untreated, this can cause malocclusion, meaning the mouth doesn't close properly or the horse can't chew properly. 'Floating' is the best way to prevent any of these issues from happening and allows for optimal health long term.

What are wolf teeth and how are they treated?

Not all horses have wolf teeth. They are a vestigial tooth, meaning over time most horses no longer have them, but a good percentage still do. They don't cause any problems, and most wolf teeth fall out on their own. Some people think it's important to remove wolf teeth, but I personally don't feel that it's necessary.

What would constitute a horse mouth emergency?

A true horse mouth emergency would be any type of cut, laceration, or bleeding from the oral cavity, especially of the tongue. Horses are very inquisitive creatures and it's not uncommon for them to injure their mouth. Any potential trauma to any part of the oral structures from the lips, muzzle, tongue, teeth, and so on, should be reported to us immediately. Fortunately, we have equine doctors on call seven days a week, 365 days a year, for all of northern Arizona.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (928) 526-2423, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram

Equine Dental - FAQs

Dr. Jesse Saul
Aspen Veterinary Clinic

Should I brush and floss my horse's teeth?

No, you don't need to brush and floss your horse's teeth. Unlike dogs and cats, horses are very resilient to gingivitis and periodontal disease.

What is floating a horse's teeth and why is it important?

Floating is a technique used to remove sharp areas of the enamel on a horse's teeth that form over time due to grinding. This can prevent issues on the tongue, inside of the cheeks, and malocclusion.

Can anything be done at home to prevent my horse from needing its teeth floated?

The best way to protect your horse's teeth is to feed on a rubber mat or out of a ground trough to prevent the horse from picking up abrasive substances, which can cause additional abrasion and cracks in the tooth.

Is it bad that my horse grinds its teeth?

Some horses grind their teeth out of habit, but it can be an indication that there's something more serious going on, such as GI ulcers or some type of pain or discomfort. However, most horses should not be grinding their teeth.

Can a bit be painful to my horse?

If a horse has some type of disease process, infected tooth, chipped tooth, or tooth root abscess, a bit could be painful. However, a properly positioned bit should not cause any discomfort to a horse. A horse has two major categories of teeth: the incisors, which are the front teeth used for grazing or cropping hay, and the molars, located at the back of the mouth where most of the grinding occurs. These molars are tightly packed together, creating a single grinding surface. Between the top and bottom jaws, the horse can move its jaw in a circular motion to effectively break down the feed. With these two major categories of teeth, the bit should sit between the incisors and the cheek teeth, ensuring that there is never any pressure on the teeth themselves.

Should horses eat with their bits in?

While it doesn't hurt if a horse wants to eat with a bit in, we generally recommend removing the bit and the bridle before allowing your horse to feed.

Do horses replace their teeth with new ones if a tooth is lost?

Horses have two sets of teeth - their juvenile or baby teeth, and their adult teeth. Once the adult teeth grow in, that set is permanent for the rest of their life.

Are horses born with teeth?

Most foals are born without teeth, but some will have their first few incisors. If they are born without any incisors, within about a week, the first juvenile or baby teeth incisors will erupt.

How do I tell if my horse has a chipped or a cracked tooth?

The only way to know for certain is a full oral exam, which requires putting an oral speculum in place following sedation to evaluate all the teeth, especially the molars in the back of the mouth.

Is it bad that my horse has yellow teeth?

It's not uncommon for horses to get staining and develop a lot of tartar. During a float or oral exam, the veterinarian may break off some of the larger pieces of tartar, but horses are relatively resistant to gingivitis and periodontal disease.

What are the hooks on my horse's teeth?

The hooks are sharp enamel points that form at the front and the back of the cheek teeth or the molars, while points are similar enamel sharp edges that form on the inside or the outside of the cheek teeth.

Can my horse get periodontal disease?

Horses are very resistant to gingivitis and periodontal disease. However, they can develop periodontal disease if there's a space between the cheek teeth where feed or other material is packed down. This can be corrected at our clinic.

How often are you open and what happens if I have an emergency?

We are open seven days a week for regular appointments, and we have 24-7 after-hours emergency services for all horse owners and any of their equine needs.

If you still have other questions and you'd like to reach out to us, you can call us directly at (928) 526-2423, or you can email us at [email protected]. But please do reach out, and we'll get back to you as fast as we can. Don't forget to follow us on social media Facebook, Instagram