Just as people visit the dentist on a regular basis to maintain proper dental health, horses also require regular dental care. Horses should have at least annual dental check-ups to maintain proper alignment and remove points and hooks.
Why is dental care required? Horses have hypsodont (continually growing) teeth that are deep rooted and have about 3 inches of reserve which continue to erupt (grow) out of the horse’s jaw as the grinding surface is worn away. The horse chews laterally (side to side), tearing forages apart for better digestion.
If its teeth are not wearing evenly, or points have not been removed, this lateral movement can be inhibited, causing the horse to chew more vertically. Chewing in a vertical manner does not allow for proper grinding of forages/grains and thus nutritional benefits from feed will be lost.
A dental evaluation includes looking at the incisors and molars for proper alignment, and checking for points and hooks. The horse’s teeth need an opposing surface for continued wear and a smooth surface. Without an opposing surface, teeth will continue to erupt creating a long, sharp edge that could irritate the tongue, cheek tissue or gum line.
Points develop due to the unopposed dental surfaces on the outside of the upper molars and inside of the lower molars. Left
untreated, points can cause sores on the tongue or cheek tissue.
Hooks found on the front edge of the first molar or rear edge of the last molar can be caused by misalignment of the jaw. If not filed down, these hooks can continue to lengthen until they cut into the opposing gum tissue.
From 5 years of age through early teens, an annual dental care program may be sufficient. As your horse moves into old age, more frequent care may be require, however, each horse is different and we can tailor a dental and feeding program specific to your horse’s needs.
How we can help you:
Veterinarians utilize a mechanized float for dental procedures. An oral speculum is used in all of our dental exams and allows us to fully visualize all areas of the mouth and communicate to you any problems which may be evident. With full access to all parts of the mouth, we are able to help correct most dental problems and help tailor a nutritional plan specific to your horse’s needs.