Equine Dental Health: Straight From the Horse's Mouth
Posted February 08, 2019
Horses use their teeth for several functions, including eating,
grooming, and defense. Like most other pets, horses need regular
check-ups and maintenance for their teeth, which should be done by
an equine veterinarian.
For National Pet Dental Health Month this February, Dr. Leslie
Easterwood, a clinical assistant professor at the Texas A&M
College of Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences, has
advice for keeping a horse’s teeth clean and healthy.
Easterwood said the most common dental issue for horses is the
development of sharp enamel points that form naturally when horses
grind their teeth.
“Horses develop sharp enamel points along the cheek side of
their upper cheek teeth and along the tongue side of their lower
cheek teeth,” she said. “These sharp enamel points can cause
ulcerations down the insides of their cheeks and along the sides of
Easterwood said these ulcers can be very painful, especially
when a bit is used for riding. As a result, the horse may be
resistant to riding or otherwise not behave normally.
There are many signs horse owners can look for that indicate
their horse is having dental issues. According to Easterwood, these
include drooling, dropping grain, refusing to eat long-stem
roughage, performance issues, and turning the head to the side when
The sharp enamel points can be reduced by an equine veterinarian
through a procedure called dental floating, which involves
smoothing down the edges with a dental file.
“Horses should have their first dental floating prior to putting
the bit in their mouth for the first time,” Easterwood said. “After
that, most horses should have their teeth floated once a year.”
She added that the teeth may need to be examined at least twice
a year if they are wearing abnormally. A dental check should also
be performed anytime the horse is eating strangely or reacting to
Equine veterinarians may also perform other dental procedures,
such as addressing soft tissue problems in the mouth and pulling
“Loose or broken teeth, along with retained baby teeth, may need
to be removed. Older horses can have other developmental issues
that also require removing teeth,” Easterwood said.
If your horse is showing any of the signs of dental pain or has
not had a dental checkup in a while, make sure to contact your
veterinarian. Your horse will be happier with a mouth full of
clean, healthy teeth.
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Veterinary Medicine & Biomedical Sciences. Stories can be
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